Hearings on the petition: Mr Leonard Chuene; Boland Athletics; University of Stellenbosch

Sports, Arts and Culture

30 May 2011
Chairperson: Mr B Komphela (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Delegations were present from the National Lotteries Board, University of Stellenbosch and Boland Athletics Federation to discuss the loan made by the University to the Federation for a project that would have been repaid by a grant from the lottery. It came to light that the University had commenced with legal action against the other two parties. No discussion could be led as the matter was now sub judice. The Committee heard that legal notice had been served on the Federation as early as August 2010, while the notice to the lottery had only been served the previous week. Members questioned the absence of the Boland President. He was overseas at present due to his duties as President Zuma's personal doctor.

Members of the DA challenged the presence of Mr Leonard Chuene at the meeting. They felt that he should not have been invited. Members of other parties interpreted the decisions of previous meetings as an invitation to all stakeholders. DA members were not convinced and excused themselves from the meeting at that stage.

Mr Chuene was asked about the events surrounding Caster Semenya in Berlin and the aftermath. He explained that Athletics South Africa had taken the correct decisions, and had subsequently been vindicated. They had a duty to protect South African athletes. He felt the issue had been used as an excuse for bodies outside athletics to bring about his downfall. There had been no communication with the Minister and Department.


Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed the delegates from the University of Stellenbosch (US) and the National Lotteries Board (NLB). The Committee had been told previously that there were conflicts of interest with lottery grant distributions. Questions had been raised about allocations made involving the University and clarity was needed. He understood that the University had been waiting for four years for the repayment of money it had forwarded for a project on the understanding it would be refunded from a lottery grant. On the other hand, there was talk that the Boland Athletics Federation (BAF) did not see the situation the same way despite some evidence to the contrary.

Mr D Lee (DA) did not understand why Mr Leonard Chuene was present.

The Chairperson said that it had been said that Mr Chuene must be called. Special arrangements had been made to have him present.

Mr Lee said he remembered things differently. He remembered that BAF and the NLB would be called, and he had no problem in hearing their presentations. He did have a problem with Mr Chuene's presence.

The Chairperson looked for a reference in the Minutes of the relevant meeting.

Mr M Dikgacwi (ANC) recalled a proposal that all stakeholders should be present.

The Chairperson quoted from the Minutes of the meeting of 8 February. It had been resolved to hold public hearings on the issue. The meeting of the 29th had specified a number of people that would be called.

Mr Dikgacwi did not dispute this.

Mr L Suka (ANC) wanted some clarity. The 24 May meeting had been addressed by a University representative. Members had requested documents in order to guide their opinion. He was not sure if there were two petitions or just one.

The Chairperson said it was the same meeting, but events had caught up.

Prof Alfred Nevhutanda, NLB Chairperson, said that the Lotto was an operating company which gathered funds for distribution by the NLB. The NLB worked closely with Parliament. The invitation from the Committee was received. The matter under discussion was subject to a summons from the Court to appear as a second respondent. The matter was sub judice and it would be difficult to discuss the pros and cons of the issue. An internal investigation had been put in place. Issues could be clarified but discussion might be restricted.

The Chairperson said that the University of Stellenbosch representative had probably not realised that Court papers had already been served.

Mr Lee was shocked that the matter had already gone to court. He had been under the impression that the University of Stellenbosch was trying to resolve the matter before it went to court.

The Chairperson said that Ms Gugu Ntuli, Stellenbosch University Sport Performance Institute CEO, had only said that the matter was being dealt with at high level. He thanked the University of Stellenbosch Vice Rector, Prof Smith, for being present. Sports people followed the wrong course of action and things ended up in court. He asked if the Professor had a problem answering questions. The University of Stellenbosch had sent a letter to his office saying they did not want to go to court, and were looking for an amicable solution.

Prof Nevhutanda said that the NLB was a state entity serving everybody. He wanted to find out where the problems lay. They would report to Parliament on every aspect of their work.

Prof Julian Smith, Vice-Rector: University of Stellenbosch, apologised, as he thought the previous discussion was all about the Caster Semenya issue. On the loan to BAF, all avenues had now been exhausted. He had proof of four attempts to reach understanding with BAF. There was nearly an agreement, but the University of Stellenbosch was told the matter was closed. There was no option other than litigation, as reluctant as they were to take this course. A lot of money and time was now being used. This was contrary to the University's ethos. The University of Stellenbosch wished to create access and opportunities. The University was often accused of not transforming. Since he had taken charge of sport at the University it had taken major strides. He had made every effort to participate personally. He had excused himself from an international conference to attend this meeting, and it was a pity that the President of BAF had not attended this meeting or a meeting called earlier by the former President of Athletics South Africa (ASA) where the matter had been discussed.

The Chairperson said that Mr Adams had been called. Issues with him would be dealt with later. It was clear that things were not going well.

Mr Lee said that the President of BAF was absent. He asked if there was a good reason.

Mr Suka wanted to know what the bone of contention actually was. Once a matter became sub judice better solutions were needed.

The Chairperson said that the University of Stellenbosch was invited to the meeting the previous week because of a perceived abuse of lottery funding. Money meant for the University of Stellenbosch had gone into another party's hands. This case was the illustration of what was going wrong with lottery funding. The University of Stellenbosch had now gone to court to demand repayment. The former President of ASA had tried to resolve the issue. The University of Stellenbosch was open to any amicable conclusion. The NLB did not have a problem with trying to find a solution.

Mr Suka was now comfortable. This was why he had asked for documentation previously.

The Chairperson had received the requested documents, but had considered it prudent not to distribute the information at this stage. The matter could not be discussed now. BAF had to be part of the future discussion.

Mr Pieter Lourens, BAF Vice-President, said he had served on many community organisations. Whilst their President, Dr Adams, was absent due to work commitments he was serving as president. He respected the ruling made by the Chairperson. Mr Wilfred Daniels was mentioned in the petition.

The Chairperson understood that Mr Daniels was one of the petitioners. He was not a member of any board.

Mr Lourens asked how BAF was related to the petition.

The Chairperson said that the petitioners had said that lottery funding was abused. There was a reference to the President of BAF. This person had gone to the University of Stellenbosch to solicit funding as an advance on lottery funding. The matter was now at court.

Mr Lourens said that BAF was the first respondent, and had been summonsed on 30 August 2010.

Mr Jeffrey du Preez, NLB Chief Operating Officer, said their summons was received only in May 2011.

Mr Godfrey Hammers, BAF Chief Executive Officer, said that the University of Stellenbosch had tried several approaches but had a history of taking people to court.

The Chairperson ruled that no further discussion was possible. The history of the University of Stellenbosch would not be discussed at this stage. Mr Daniels had introduced himself as a member of ASA, and not as a member of any board. He had been a member of ASA at the time when the dispute arose. The Chairperson said he had been informed by the Presidency that Dr Adams had accompanied President Zuma on a visit to Libya.

Prof Smith asked if the decisions taken at this meeting would be communicated to the University of Stellenbosch in writing.

The Chairperson said that the Committee did not want to see sports disputes end in court. The process being followed by the Committee would have to be dealt with in a transparent fashion. The delegations from the University of Stellenbosch, BAF and NLB were excused.

The Chairperson said that one of the Members wished to make an amendment to the Committee's report.

Mr Lee had a real problem. Firstly, the Committee had decided the previous week to entertain the delegations which had just left. Mr Chuene had not been discussed. It seemed that the Chairperson wanted to allow Mr Chuene to have his say. He did not want the sports people of the country and administrators to feel that Parliament was undermining them. This perception could be created if the Committee entertained Mr Chuene. His party members would recuse themselves from further participation in this meeting.

Mr Dikgacwi said that the Committee had decided that all stakeholders must be heard. The ANC was prepared to listen.

Ms S Lebenya-Ntanzi (IFP) could not see any harm in hearing Mr Chuene, but no decisions must be taken.

The Chairperson said that no decisions had been made. Recommendations would be made to Parliament and to the Minister. It was not up to the Committee to make such decisions.

Mr S Mmusi (ANC) felt that the Committee should listen to Mr Chuene, and should persuade the DA to remain in the meeting.

The Chairperson said that it was the right of any party to participate in Committee meetings, and it was their prerogative to leave the meeting.

Mr Dikgacwi reminded Mr Lee that it had been said that the Committee would listen to all parties, and then deliberate by itself.

The Chairperson said that Mr Lee's opinion was that the Committee would be stabbing sports people in the back by hearing Mr Chuene. The Speaker, in recognising the petition, acknowledged the right to be heard.

Mr Lee and Mr J van der Linde (DA) excused themselves from the meeting at this point.

The Chairperson said that matter regarding the lottery funding had not been handled properly. He asked if the matter of Caster Semenya was handled incorrectly. If not, then he asked if Mr Chuene could have handled the matter differently. He asked if the matter of abuse of lottery funding could have been handled differently.

Mr Leonard Chuene, former President of ASA, said that everybody was saying that the matter of Caster Semenya had been handled wrongly. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had eventually acknowledged that ASA had made the right decision by allowing her to run at the meeting in Berlin. People had changed their minds later. She was still running as a woman. People used the issue to attack ASA. ASA had come to Parliament and made its position clear. It was the first time that this situation had arisen in the country. People used the issue to attack ASA. ASA had handled the matter well, leading to the country celebrating a world champion. The attacks were the price of leadership. When the leadership was suspended it was only about the Semenya issue. This had happened on 5 November 2009. This was in the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) letter. The investigation took almost a year. Only then did other allegations, such as mismanagement of funds, come to light. The ASA Council had passed a vote of confidence in the leadership. Not a single province had dissented. SASCOC had been used. Three provinces were used. There was a conspiracy that had succeeded. Athletics people had never suspended the ASA management. A clique had been formed outside the Council, using the media to rubbish the leadership. Some of the people were given positions in the lotto. One awarded the people that had helped one.

Mr Chuene reaffirmed that there was nothing wrong in the Semenya dealings. There were allegations of huge financial abuses in Cricket South Africa. When soccer came from Zurich with the successful 2010 bid, they had paid themselves huge bonuses. The Minister at the time had said that government could not question the decisions made by an independent board. There were serious disputes in big federations. Certain individuals in athletics had been treated poorly. He and his colleagues had been stabbed in the back. They were citizens like anybody else. Mr Sepp Blatter was not above the law, and had been forced to answer to various committees. He was the author of a document evaluating the abuse of lottery money to fund power struggles. Names had been attached to the allegations. He and his colleagues had not been treated properly. The media were divided, and pursued different agendas. He believed some people were pushed out because they supported the transformation agenda.

Mr Chuene said that the President of BAF was sending his people to fight his battles for him. Sport could not be held to ransom. There would continue to be a difference of opinion. He wanted the country to know that people had used the Semenya issue for other reasons. Opinions had to be challenged. He was stronger on his standpoint now.

The Chairperson felt that Mr Chuene understood the country's Constitution. If Ms Semenya was suspended from the Berlin race, he asked how Mr Chuene could have upheld the decision in terms of her constitutional rights.

Mr Chuene replied that at the time he was on the IAAF Council. He had a clear picture of the IAAF rules as well as those of ASA and the Republic of South Africa (RSA) Constitution. His role was to protect the interests of South African athletes. He would defend his team. Certain decisions would have put his position in jeopardy had he been wrong.

The Chairperson asked if there was anything in the Constitution to allow gender discrimination.

Mr Chuene said that there was nothing. Ms Semenya was accepted into the ranks of ASA as a young girl. When people were castigating him they did not understand the position. He could not change the nineteen year life-history of Ms Semenya in a second.

The Chairperson asked if Mr Chuene had been summonsed to SASCOC or the Minister on his return home from Berlin.

Mr Chuene said that there was no meeting. He had spoken to the President of SASCOC. They had tried to talk to the Minister, but this had never been allowed.

The Chairperson said there had been some discussion around Ms Semenya. When the news went out to the media, he asked if Mr Chuene knew who had disclosed the information to the media. Mr Chuene had reportedly had a late night meeting with a member of the media.

Mr Chuene said there had been a meeting in Berlin between himself and Dr Adams. He could not recall at what time this had happened. Dr Adams had raised a query over Ms Semenya's gender. Mr Chuene did not understand the medical terminology being used. He had asked for evidence. Dr Adams said he had been called by the clinic in RSA where Ms Semenya had been treated. Mr Chuene said that nothing should be done if there was no evidence. Dr Adams was a medical official of IAAF. Mr Chuene had asked for a meeting with IAAF medical staff. The problem was that the same doctors of the Medical Commission had no clear procedures on how to handle the case, and had apologised later. ASA continued to be exonerated by later decisions. Ms Semenya's case was a watershed one. Mr Chuene had been able to change the world by his stance. The lives of young girls in this situation had been changed.

The Chairperson said that Dr Dlamini had reported that the ANC was in disarray prior to the Polokwane conference. Dr Dlamini had been requested to stand against Mr Chuene. The media had run the campaign using this alleged disarray.

Mr Chuene knew that this was the case. He was a stumbling block and his opponents wanted to destroy him. It was so serious an issue that people had sworn an affidavit. When pursuing the case it was presented to the highest Committee in the country. They had gone to Parliament and left the matter in the hands of the Portfolio Committee. One of those making the affidavit was a board member of SASCOC. The Committee was aware of this person's name. There was never a charge that Mr Chuene had abused funds. Mr Chuene was seen as a threat to become President of SASCOC. All three medals at the Athletics Championships came from rural athletes. This had never happened before, nor had a black girl become world champion. Mbulaeni Malaudzi was also a champion, and Khotso Mokoena. ASA had always been rubbished for not supporting transformation. They had produced three champions as a result of transformation. He hoped that his successors would continue to build on this progress. Dr Dlamini had been endorsed with the support of the IFP. This was not the first time that this had happened, and had happened when Mr Patrick Chauke was still Chairperson of this Committee.

The Chairperson asked if Mr Chuene recalled the Minister saying there would be a third world war if Ms Semenya was denied her medal and prize money. It did not make sense that he had not met Mr Chuene given such a bold statement.

Mr Chuene said it was not easy to answer this. The matter had been his life for the last two years. This Committee had a problem with the President of the IAAF, Lamine Diack, and had made a strong statement that he could not come to RSA to meet with the President, only the Minister. The Minster's sentiment had died a natural death. An envoy had been sent to the IAAF. Mr Chuene had briefed him. This had never happened. IAAF understood that they were in the wrong. A critical issue was that Ms Semenya was denied her prize money as she had not participated for the entire year. This was due to the mistakes of other people. IAAF had not followed their own constitution. He left IAAF with one message. There was an allegation that Mr Chuene had politicised the Semenya issue. This person had taken his allegations to the media. Mr Chuene had told the IAAF that Ms Semenya was a South African citizen, and ASA would protect her. IAAF should not have made the pronouncements that they had. ASA should have met with the Government to decide how best to protect Ms Semenya. In the case of Oscar Pistorius, government had intervened and helped him to win his case. ASA had been tried in the media, which had pushed for a certain course of action. Ms Semenya had been denied an income for a year, while her cycle as champion was only two years. The war had shifted from the IAAF to ASA, and was still being fought.

The Chairperson asked if SASCOC had the right to dissolve the ASA board and suspend its members.

Mr Molatelo Malehopo, suspended General Manager, ASA, said that ASA was a Section 21 company registered with what was then the Companies and Intellectual Properties Registration Office (CIPRO). SASCOC was in a similar position despite not having a constitution. It was odd that there was a situation where one company could take over another without due process. A process should be defined in the Companies Act. This is what had happened in a seamless procedure. The issues had not been heard. There was no law of which he was aware that allowed one company to take over another, or suspend its members.

The Chairperson asked if they were aware of the National Sports and Recreation Amendment Act of 2008, in particular the dispute resolution mechanisms it provided. He asked if the legislated procedure had been followed.

Mr Malehopo said the procedure had not been followed.

The Chairperson quoted a section of the Act regarding provisions for mediation and intervention by the Minister. The Minister was the only person who could initiate intervention, and had to advise the accused organisation in writing.

Mr Chuene said that this issue had not been discussed with the Minister. The only communication was that the Board had been suspended, without explanation.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was aware of the affidavits that had been made. Clear allegations had been made. The affidavits had been referred to the lawyer of Sport and Recreation South Africa. The lawyer, Mr Gideon Boshoff, had reported that the allegations had been conveyed to the Minister. No action had been taken on this matter to date. The Committee had done all that it could legally do.

Mr Chuene said that there was now a clear understanding that there were powerful people in the background. He was happy to preserve his dignity. He would challenge allegations against him. He and his colleagues had been fighting a cause, defending a South African citizen. They had spent their own money in their defence while SASCOC had spent R8 million on legal fees. This money should have gone to the development of sport. The first team of lawyers were imported from Durban and later from Cape Town while the case was being heard in Johannesburg. The expelled members were only trying to defend their integrity. There were many institutions that could have resolved the case. There was a relationship between certain individuals and members of the legal teams. Information was being destroyed. Sport would be destroyed if this was allowed to persist.

The Chairperson said that the National Sports and Recreation Act required all federations to account to Parliament on their spending on an annual basis. Members of the Committee would pursue the legal costs. He thanked Mr Chuene for attending. He knew that Mr Chuene was not comfortable in coming to Parliament. He should not feel unwelcome.

The meeting was adjourned.
 


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