Petition by athletes to Parliament: SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee submission

Sports, Arts and Culture

15 August 2011
Chairperson: Mr M Digacwi (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

A number of athletes had submitted a petition, via the Speaker of Parliament, to the Committee. Some Members of the Committee expressed concerns on procedural matters, as they did not think that some of those matters outlined in the petition fell within the ambit of the Committee. A DA Member expressed his strong disagreement with the Committee’s approach. An ID member sounded a caution that if the Committee were to deal with the matter, all sides should be heard. The Chairperson noted that since the Committee had started to deal with some matters, it had felt that it should hear submissions, and asked the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) for comment. SASCOC believed that the petition showed a number of irregularities. The background to the matter was that after the Berlin games, in October 2009, there were suspicions that something was wrong within Athletics South Africa (ASA), and SASCOC decided to set up an inquiry. After receiving the report from the inquiry committee, SASCOC took steps to institute disciplinary proceedings, to suspend three members of the ASA Board, and appoint an interim administrator. Those three members had challenged the authority of the administrator and SASCOC to do so, but had lost their case, and a costs order was given against them. A forensic auditor was appointed, and submitted a report in July 2010, which revealed various irregularities allegedly committed by Mr Lionel Chuene, Mr Kakata Maponyane and Dr Simon Dlamini. The disciplinary committee found all three guilty of the charges and removed them from the Board, in terms of clause 17.5.9 of the ASA constitution, whilst also imposing bans from holding positions within athletics for various periods. The petitioners had engaged with various issues, including reinstatement of the Board, which clearly did not fall within the mandate of the Committee.

Some Members of the Committee repeated their concerns that the Committee should not be dealing with a petition that revealed irregularities, and cautioned that this might undermine the court processes. However, other Members asked how much money had been spent on the court cases and internal hearings, and noted that this had cost about R6 million to date. They enquired whether SASCOC had the mandate to pursue criminal charges, and whether any charges had been laid. Members proposed that since the Department of Sport and Recreation had been involved since the beginning of this matter, these issues should be referred to it for investigation into the substantive issues.

Meeting report

Petition by athletes to Parliament: SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee submissions
The Chairperson stated that the Committee, via the Speaker of Parliament, had received a petition from some athletes outlining a number of concerns, and although some of the matters raised in that petition did not fall within the ambit or mandate of the Committee  – such as the calls for reinstatement of workers and the issue of reinstating the Board – there were other issues that it felt it needed to debate. The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) had been invited to make submissions and recommendations.

Mr Gideon Sam, President, SASCOC, stated that SASCOC’s position was to try to assist the Committee as much as possible, but pointed out that a petition of this nature was not normally of the type that the Committee should entertain. The petition was flawed and for this reason SASCOC was concerned at having to deal with it but, out of respect for the Committee, had decided that it should discuss what action may need to be taken. SASCOC’s council believed that the petition was illegal, but it hoped that, by these submissions, it would assist the Committee to bring the process to finality.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Sam for his remarks and repeated that the Committee would meet on its own and deliberate as to what decision should be taken, after hearing submission. Some individual Committee Members had also raised issues of concern after the process had begun, but the Committee could not abandon the matter at this stage.

Mr Ajay Sooklal, Chairperson of Legal Governance Committee, SASCOC began by presenting a history of how SASCOC became involved in this matter. He stated that in October 2009, after the Berlin games, there was clearly something fundamentally wrong, around the Caster Semenya matter, and after the athletes had returned to South Africa, discussions in the public domain became more heated.

The Chairperson interrupted Mr Sooklal at this point, stating that the Committee did not want to get involved in discussions on the Caster Semenya matter.

Mr Sooklal noted this, and said that SASCOC decided to set up an investigation, chaired by Adv Michael Collins from Durban. Many of the role players in the Berlin games were invited to make submissions during this investigative process. The role players included the then-Chairperson and President, Mr Leonard Chuene, various stakeholders on the Athletics South Africa (ASA) Board, and managers and athletes who performed at the Berlin games. The investigative process revealed that there was something untoward in the state of affairs at ASA. In January 2010, after SACSOC received the report from Mr Collins, it held a full investigation and took steps to suspend the ASA Board. It then proceeded to discuss what needed to happen in future. Mr Ray Mali, a member of the SASCOC board, was appointed as administrator, and, after looking into the workings of ASA, found that a full forensic audit into the state of affairs of the ASA was necessary.

Deloitte were appointed as external forensic auditors, and they began work in February 2010. The final report came to SASCOC in July 2010, and SASCOC decided that various personnel in the administrative structures of ASA should face disciplinary charges. The ASA board members Leonard Chuene, Kakata Maponyane and Simon Dlamini were charged, and made application to the High Court in Johannesburg to interdict the inquiry and stop any further investigations, on the grounds that neither the administrators of the ASA nor SASCOC had any jurisdiction to interfere in the affairs of an organisation. The matter was argued in the Johannesburg High Court and the judgement handed down concluded that SASCOC and Mr Mali did indeed have the necessary standing to investigate the affairs of ASA. The application of these three former ASA members was dismissed, and a costs order was awarded jointly against the three. The disciplinary inquiry into their conduct resulted in a finding that they should be removed immediately from the ASA Board, and their positions were declared vacant. Mr Sooklal noted that the basis for the removal of members of the board was to be found in clause 17.5.9 of the ASA constitution. Mr Chuene was also barred from holding a position within athletics or any other code falling under SASCOC for at least seven years. Mr Maponyani was barred from athletics for a period of five years, and Dr Dlamini was barred from athletics for a period of three years.

The three gentlemen had failed to pay the High Court costs and the arbitration costs to date. Adv Norman Arendse, Chairperson of the Disciplinary Inquiry Committee had also found that the three should be required to pay back to ASA and SASCOC the monies that they had illegally and unconstitutionally appropriated for their own private causes, as detailed in the charge sheet. These included staff loans, the double per diem payments received from the International Athletics Federation (IAF) and ASA, maintenance and insurance charges on the Mercedes Benz purchased by Mr Chuene for R1 from ASA and the ASA corporate credit card costs incurred by him.

Discussion
Mr T Lee (DA) stated that the report made for a dismal reading of the state of sport in South Africa. If sponsors saw these matters, it would be understandable that they would not want to be involved and would not offer support. He stated that he agreed with Mr Sam that the petition to Parliament was questionable. Mr Chuene was banned from athletics, and had to pay costs, in terms of a judgment, but this was not the final matter, and it must be remembered that he was found guilty of certain wrongful actions. He asked if it was the mandate of SASCOC to pursue criminal charges against Mr Chuene or anyone else involved in such matters.

Mr J McGluwa (ID) referred to the Chairperson’s opening remarks and stated that he was one of the Members who believed that an error of judgment had been made when the Committee agreed to this process, but the Committee had been given an assurance that all role players would be heard. He asked how much was spent on the court cases and internal hearings.

Mr McGluwa also said that media reports seemed to indicate that a number of members of the management of ASA had resigned before disciplinary steps had been taken against them. He asked whether, after such resignations, SASCOC had attempted to take action against them.

Mr B Holomisa (UDM) was also concerned about questions of procedure. The petition had been made to the Speaker, and those concerned had not approached the Committee directly, as normally happened with sporting issues, but it was their right to follow this approach. However, it was problematic for the Committee to preside over this petition, because the Committee had at another stage engaged in most of the issues raised during this process. He did not believe, for this reason, that the Committee could do justice to the case, and felt that it could even undermine the court process.

Mr L Suka (ANC) agreed with Mr Holomisa’s comments that the Committee should not prejudice the case. He was mindful of the need to maintain the separation between the three arms of state, and this Committee would not want to compromise the integrity of any process. He asked to what extent the Department of Sport and Recreation (SRSA) was aware of the processes, and whether it could take over from the Committee and manage the issues, so that the Committee could then step back and oversee the Department’s role in bringing this matter to finality.

Mr Sam responded emphatically that this process had started in the office of the then-Minister Stofile, and had ended when Minister Fikile Mbalula took over. The Department had been involved at every step of the process, and before SASCOC went public on any outcomes, the Minister was kept totally informed. It was for this reason that current Minister Mr Mbalula had stressed to all federations, during a SASCOC council meeting in East London, that the Department and SASCOC were not dispute resolution bodies, but existed to run sport.

Mr Holomisa asked if there were copies of any memorandum submitted by SASCOC to the Director-General, and up, through departmental channels, to the Minister.  

Mr Sam replied that he could provide copies of documents exchanged between Mr Tubby Reddy, Chief Executive Officer of SASCOC, and Mr Vernon Petersen, the recently-deceased Director General of SRSA.

 The Chairperson clarified that it had been agreed that the Committee would consider the petition, and reach a decision as to what it should do. He agreed that there were some irregularities that had not been immediately apparent, such as lack of contact information for petitioners. However, the Committee had to ask the Department about its role in the matter.

Mr Suka agreed with the Chairperson and proposed that the Committee should refer the matter to the proper channels, since the Committee was not able to probe into substantive matters. The Committee was limited in what it could do, as questions around fines and punishment were outside of its jurisdiction. He suggested that the Committee should therefore refer the matter to the SRSA, calling for a progress report in due course, and ensure that it would be laid to rest.

Mr Lee reiterated that he wanted to know how much money SASCOC had spent the court cases, and whether SASCOC had attempted to charge anyone, outside of the normal procedure. 

Mr Sooklal replied that after the disciplinary inquiry had progressed and Mr Arendse had handed down his findings, Adv Menzi Simelane, Head of the National Prosecuting Authority, was approached by SASCOC, and he then instructed the South African Police Service to open a criminal docket. That was done, and a criminal investigation was under way, pursuant to the issues apparent from the disciplinary inquiry in respect of Mr Chuene, Mr Maponyane and Dr Dlamini. The issues of misadministration apparent in ASA at that time had been referred to the South African Revenue Services, who were investigating it. Both the criminal and tax evasion investigations by the relevant authorities were ongoing.

Mr Tubby Reddy, Chief Executive Officer, SASCOC, replied that the cost of this case was approximately R6 million.

The Chairperson thanked SASCOC for its briefing and asked if the Committee would agree to deliberate on these issues in private.

Mr Lee stated emphatically that he believed that this Committee had compromised the whole situation by starting to investigate.

The meeting was adjourned.

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