20 Oct 2020
Members continued to raise their concerns over the forthcoming South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee elections, and expressed doubts that they were going to be free and fair because of the many internal issues in the sports body.
Dr Sam Ramsamy, the IOC facilitator who had been appointed to handle some of the issues, said he was confident that the elections would run smoothly, and said everything was being done constitutionally. The disciplinary proceedings involving the suspended acting president of SASCOC, Mr Barry Hendricks, were once again a focal point of the meeting, with Committee Members and the SASCOC board members raising their concerns over his reinstatement.
Several Members expressed reservations over Mr Ramasamy’s role in resolving the SASCOC issues.
They said he was viewed at dictatorial, and that he had a personal interest in the outcome of the election. They were also disappointed at his lack of answers to questions put to him by the Committee.
The Committee also sought more information about Project Flamingo, and were told about a secret pin number that provided access to a report on the project, which board members said they had not seen. The Chairperson demanded that the report be made available to the Committee, and this was agreed to by Mr Hendricks.
Absence of Minister
Mr T Mhlongo (DA) did not accept the apology from the Minister, and asked that the meeting be adjourned.
Mr W Faber (DA) also concurred with Mr Mhlongo that the Minister had to be present at the meeting.
Mr M Seabi (ANC) was of the view that the meeting should continue in the absence of the Minister, and a written response would be accepted from the Minister’s office.
Mr Mhlongo said the excuses of the Minister were not acceptable, because he was not prioritising the Committee, and he had to answer some questions.
Mr Faber mentioned that he would be happy to have the Minister in the meeting and not always having to accept the apologies, because it was affecting the work of the Committee.
Ms V Malomane (ANC) had a different view from Mr Mhlongo and Mr Faber, and proposed that the meeting proceed because the Minister had other tasks.
Mr C Sibisi (NFP) said that he understood the importance of having the Minister in the meeting, but the meeting could not be called off because of his absence.
The Chairperson reminded Members that they had to decide on the way forward, and everyone had to be listened to.
Mr Mhlongo proposed that the meeting proceed if some of the questions that they were going to ask could be answered by those present.
Dr Sam Ramsamy, Honorary Member, International Olympic Committee (IOC), thanked the Committee for inviting them to the meeting during the difficult times. He gave a brief background on the communications that had taken place between the Minister and IOC in raising the issues involving the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
The Chairperson thanked Dr Ramsamy for his presentation, and asked Members how they would like to continue with the discussion.
Mr Mhlongo proposed that the Committee put questions to Dr Ramsamy
Mr Seabi asked that Dr Ramsamy make his full presentation so that the Committee could ask all its questions at once, and not wait for segments. Mr Mhlongo supported this proposal.
The Chairperson said that Dr Ramsamy should make his presentation, as had been agreed by the Members.
Dr Ramsamy said that he was still a South African at heart, and that he did have a role to play when instructed by the IOC as a facilitator. The IOC and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) were pleased that he had been invited to the meeting, as it assisted in the facilitation and execution of their duties. He also gave a brief background on how he got involved with sports.
The Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthwethwe, had written a letter to the president of the IOC in April explaining the unhealthy developments at SASCOC. Many issues had been detailed in the letter. It had mentioned that the office of the Minister had engaged with SASCOC, one of the issues being the acting president of SASCOC. Dr Ramsamy read parts of the letter to the Committee.
The IOC had interacted with SASCOC through its acting CEO, Mr Ravi Govender, and there had not been much progress. This had led to Dr Ramsamy being asked to help in resolving some of the disputes, as he was accepted by all the sporting federations under SASCOC. Dr Ramsamy read the letter that contained his mandate when he was appointed, and this included holding the elections, considering that there was Covid-19 pandemic. The special general meeting (SGM) was to be held as soon as possible. It was agreed that the SGM would be held on 19 September, but there were issues with regard to the agenda. There were different views on what to put on the agenda, but an agreement was reached and the agenda was accepted. Dr Ramsamy read the agenda that had been agreed by members to the Committee.
The matter of the acting president, Mr Barry Hendricks, was to go before the SGM because it was to be resolved, and one of the federations had said that the matter must be withdrawn. Dr Ramsamy had written to SASCOC and said that the matter had been on the books of SASCOC for some time, and it was high time that the matter be resolved so that the organisation could move on. There were various interpretations of the constitution, but everything had gone well. Dr Ramsamy said that the constitution had been discussed, and there had been one major debate on the clause that stated the age limit of those who wanted to run for office, because they had to retire at 70.
Dr Ramsamy said he would forward some of the communications in regard to the issue of Mr Hendricks, because other organisations wanted him to withdraw his nomination. Another issue raised had been the SASCOC activities during the interim position, and a couple of ideas had been proposed on how to deal with the issue.
Mr Govender was working hard in preparation for the annual general meeting (AGM), and the team needed to be applauded for doing such a good job. The summary for preparations had been given to all the board members at SASCOC. The issue involving the auditor had been discussed with Mr Aleck Skhosana, Athletics South Africa (ASA) president, because the previous auditor had not done a good job and a new auditor had been chosen. Mr Govender would provide more information about the preparations. Dr Ramsamy said that most of the discussions had been centred on the issue of Mr Hendricks.
A discussion had been held on whether virtual voting should be considered for the elections. Dr Ramsamy also raised some concerns about the Parliamentary Committee meeting that had been held the previous week, because he had been of the view that everything was going well, but he had been attacked at the meeting, and the IOC was concerned about how the issue of arbitration had been discussed. He said the IOC had written a letter to board members, and he read the letter to the Committee.
Dr Ramsamy said that the elections were going to be free and fair, because all measures were being taken to see that the process was done smoothly. The constitution of SASCOC should be abided by, and all members of SASCOC had to act in good faith and responsibly, in a manner that would serve SASCOC at large. He said he had interacted with board members in order to ensure that everything went well, and they had also raised their concerns about the elections, but he was confident that the issues would be resolved and the elections would be free and fair. He was concerned about the statements made at the previous week's meeting.
The Chairperson thanked Dr Ramsamy for the presentation and asked Members to ask questions on matters that they wanted clarity on.
Mr Mhlongo asked if Dr Ramsamy was working as a facilitator or administrator and what his terms of reference were. Had he engaged the IOC, and was he aware of the letter from the SASCOC board? Did he know some Members were labelling him a dictator? He asked why the matter of Mr Hendricks was being prioritised while other issues were being left out, and if Dr Ramsamy was writing letters to Mr Hendricks or to the board. He commented that Dr Ramsamy should not rely on hearsay because he had not been part of the meeting last week, so he should not talk about things that had happened in that meeting.
Mr Seabi was made acting Chairperson, because the Chairperson was having connection problems.
Mr Sibisi said that it was not constitutional for Dr Ramsamy to say that he was not going to answer questions from SASCOC board members, because they wanted clarity. Since Dr Ramsamy was the facilitator, the board members should be allowed to ask questions. He asked why Dr Ramsamy had been appointed to be the facilitator by the IOC, and not someone neutral from another country. It was also rumoured that his son was running for a position at SASCOC. Mr Sibisi was concerned about the timing of the interference by Dr Ramsamy because the issues had been there for a long time, but it seemed like it was a personal matter for him to get his son elected.
Mr Seabi said he had seen a letter that had been addressed to Dr Ramsamy on his duties and expectations, and there were allegations that SASCOC was not abiding its own constitution. He wanted to know why the constitution had not been upheld at SASCOC. The problems should be resolved so that the elections were free and fair. He also raised his concerns on the lack of preparations for the 2021 Olympics. He wanted to know what was being done in terms of the racial issues and whether Dr Ramsamy had taken over the board, as it seemed that if one had numbers, then one could do as one pleased at SASCOC.
Ms V van Dyk (DA) wanted to know if Dr Ramsamy had any information on the allegations against the acting president, and on what basis were the charges being withdrawn. She also asked his view on the legal opinions that had been presented.
The Chairperson said that during the last meeting, the Minister’s office had been present together with SASCOC, and some issues had been discussed. She stressed the importance of working together for the betterment of SASCOC.
Dr Ramsamy’s response
Dr Ramsamy said that he was a facilitator, and that he had received wonderful feedback from different people on how he had dealt with the issues at SASCOC. He could not answer the question as to whether he was an administrator, but the compliments he had received showed that he was not a dictator when trying to resolve issues.
He could not say why he had been approached by the IOC, because the IOC could provide a better answer. He had not been involved with previous matters because had been was not aware of them. The current matter had been identified by the IOC, and that was why it was on the agenda. The Gauteng Sports Federation was the one which had put forward the motion. Mr Hendricks could verify some of the issues relating to the matter.
He said that some of the issues from the previous meeting had appeared in the media, and although he did not have the official minutes, he had knowledge of what had been said. He was of the view that it was not fair to have questions from the SASCOC board. He labelled them as a group, and said that one should represent them in asking questions, but that was a matter for the Chairperson to decide on.
He categorically denied that any of his children was involved in SASCOC or was running for office in the upcoming elections.
He said that when trying to resolve disputes, one had to look for things that would parties together so that the dispute could be easily resolved. When it came to disregarding the constitution, he was of the view that the matter was to have been finalised a long time ago, and a report submitted to the SGM, and it was concerning that the matter was taking so long. He also read the communications which showed that there were attempts to resolve the dispute, and that the constitution had to be respected, together with good governance.
Mr Mhlongo said that most of the questions had not been answered, and Dr Ramsamy was showing some signs of arrogance and deliberately ignoring the questions asked by Members. He asked if Dr Ramsamy wanted to account to the Committee or not.
The Chairperson reiterated that Dr Ramsamy should answer all questions asked by those who were in the meeting, because everyone had a right to ask questions.
Ms R Adams (ANC) wanted to know if SACOC was ready for elections, and if there were any teams that were busy with preparations for them.
Mr Mhlongo asked if Dr Ramsamy was serving South Africa at the IOC, or if he was serving the IOC because of the failure of SASCOC. What was his view as a South African on the state of affairs at SASCOC?
Mr Seabi was disappointed at the manner in which Dr Ramsamy had responded to the questions, and how he had addressed the issues at SASCOC. Democracy was not only about voting -- there were different things involved, especially respecting the constitution of an organisation. The constitution was the supreme law of the organisation, and it should be abided by. He was concerned on why the legal opinions were not being considered after spending money on such opinions. He was confident that the elections were not going to be free and fair, especially after the response that had been given by Dr Ramsamy, and this was going to affect athletes. He expressed his displeasure in how SASCOC was being run.
Dr Ramsamy’s response
Dr Ramsamy said that he was not being arrogant, and he would do his best to answer all questions.
He said that the legal opinion had not been rejected, and his heart was South African. All that had been done at SASCOC was in line with its constitution, and there was no issue of the constitution being flaunted. He also mentioned that he had not encountered any racial issues at SASCOC, and that transformation had been important at SASCOC.
When he took over as facilitator, his mandate had been to protect the Olympic movement, and he would object to any decisions that affected SASCOC and South Africa to a broader extent. There were no pending issues that could affect the elections, and the preparations were going well.
Athletes had to get all the support available, because they were the ones that brought glory to the country when they won medals. He also took the position, because he was concerned about the country and SASCOC. There was a need to work together and make sure that there were no divisions, and that athletes were well taken care of.
Mr Mhlongo asked Dr Ramsamy if he had looked at the legal opinions. He added that the SASCOC board was being overruled by the IOC, and he wanted to know his view on this. He asked if there was any member related to Dr Ramsamy who was running for election.
Dr Ramsamy stated categorically that he did not have any relative running for a post at SASCOC. He also invited the Committee to come and observe the elections so that they could draw their own conclusions on whether they would be free and fair.
Mr Mhlongo said that there was no point in Dr Ramsamy going into political history, because he was not answering questions. He gave him a hypothetical scenario, and asked what he would do? Mr Mhlongo wanted to know the view of Dr Ramsamy on the motion submitted by the Gauteng Sporting Federation.
Dr Ramsamy said that it was not easy to answer hypothetical questions, and he usually chose not to answer them. He said that the constitution had not been violated in any way, and the IOC took decisions for all sporting bodies around the world, so it was not only a matter involving South Africa.
The Chairperson said that the Committee had a duty to do oversight, and Members had a right to raise their views and comments. She said the Committee had to carry out its duties, and there was no person who was going to be dictatorial with regard to the manner in which the Committee was to be chaired, because Members were raising their views in a good manner, because there were no factions in the Committee, Members were independent and did not have any influence from anyone.
She asked Members if they still wanted to continue with the meeting, and everyone was in agreement that the meeting should continue.
Mr Mhlongo was concerned that his question about the motion had not been answered by Dr Ramsamy.
The Committee had a brief discussion on how to proceed with the meeting, because SASCOC was still to make its presentation.
Mr Mhlongo asked if SASCOC could make the presentation on Project Flamingo.
SASCOC on Project Flamingo
Mr Barry Hendricks, Acting President, SASCOC, said that he was not allowed to speak about Project Flamingo, because there was an ongoing case at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). He asked Mr Govender to make the presentation.
Mr Ravi Govender, Acting CEO: SASCOC, said that the Project Flamingo had commenced way before his appointment, and it was best that Mr Hendricks give the presentation because Mr Govender did not have access to the documents on the project.
Mr Hendricks said that he had forwarded all the minutes to Mr Govender. The background to the project was that three board members from SASCOC were involved in the project, and it had been named by law firm Norton Rose Fulbright. Mr Kobus Marais, a SASCOC board member, supported the project, and he had received all the correspondence on the project. The project dealt with the issue of getting information from the three members' computers. The findings had not been divulged to staff members because of the sensitivity of the information. Basically, the project was centered on getting information from the computers of the members.
Mr Marais said that when he was approached by the chairperson of the finance committee, he had asked to do his work without any interference. What Mr Hendricks had said about the Project Flamingo was correct.
Mr Mhlongo asked why the name Flamingo had been chosen, why the information was not shared with other board members, and how much had been spent on the project.
The Chairperson asked Mr Mhlongo to hold on to his questions until the SASCOC representatives had made their contributions, because the project was a hot topic at the previous meeting and there were no documents or reports about it, which meant that it was difficult to have a conversation without such information. She was concerned as to why the Committee did not have the report.
Ms Cecilia Molokwane, President: Netball SA, said that it would be fair for some of the board members to respond to what Dr Ramsamy had said.
The Chairperson responded that the issue at hand at the moment was Project Flamingo.
Ms Molokwane said that she had not been aware of Project Flamingo, but she had also got to know about the pin code to get access to the Project Flamingo report recently. She wanted to know who had the code to the information, and suggested that the person with the code should provide information to the Committee.
Mr Skhosana (Acting SASCOS President) said that they had been briefed by Norton Rose Fulbright on how to deal with the matter. It had never been mentioned that there was a team that was working on Project Flamingo, and it was disheartening that board members were not aware of it, yet they were part of SASCOC. The matter had never been mentioned at SASCOC and that was concerning because no one knew the mandate of the investigation, and there were a lot of concerns.
Mr Kaya Majeke, of Bodybuilding SA, said that at first they did not believe that there was a team working on Project Flamingo, and it had been shocking to realise that it was a secret team and many questions needed to be answered. It was concerning if SASCOC was still being used for sporting activities. It was not acceptable to have such a project that had cost SASCOC a lot of money, because this affected athletes at the end of the day. He asked what the focus of the project was, because there have been different versions of what had been said.
He asked if SASCOC would be able to have free and fair elections later this year. Information had not been shared with board members, and there was a pin code to gain access to the project, but no one knew about such an arrangement and this was not a good sign for SASCOC. He pleaded with the Committee to play its oversight role and assist in cleaning up some of the problems at SASCOC
Mr Marais said he supported the views raised by Ms Molokwane, and they had received three independent legal opinions. The SASCOC constitution had been flaunted. He referred the Committee to previous legal precedents, which showed that the board’s decisions must not be overturned by anyone besides a court of law. The board had been complying with the constitution. He also said the name Flamingo had been given by Norton Rose, and the findings had led to the dismissal of the three members. The project had started in 2017 and had concluded its work in 2018. He was not aware if Project Flamingo was still in operation at the moment.
The Chairperson was concerned about the time factor, because there was not enough time to deliberate on all the issues at the meeting, and it was not possible to keep on shifting their agenda in order to accommodate SASCOC, because there were other issues to be dealt with. The Committee was demanding to have the Flamingo Project report, because it had to know what happened with the project, and it should have the pin code in order to have access. It was not a good decision for SASCOC to go for a conference, because from the meeting it was evident that they were not yet ready, and were not in a position to move forward at this stage.
Mr Mhlongo was of the view that the forthcoming elections at SACOC were not going to be free and fair. He posed a question to the board, and asked if the IOC supported the Flamingo Project. He proposed that SASCOC come back to the Committee the following week.
Mr Seabi proposed that the Flamingo Project report be sent to the Committee. He agreed with the Chairperson that a lot of presentations had been postponed in order to accommodate SASCOC, but nothing fruitful was coming out this, and the Committee could tell that the elections were not going to be free and fair. He also suggested that the Minister be closer to the process.
The Chairperson thanked everyone for attending the meeting and said that when dealing with issues of transformation, there was a need to be sensitive and lead from the front and treat each other with love and respect. There was no need to be pointing fingers when there were problems in an organisation. It was important to keep the integrity of the organisation intact and work for the betterment of the country and make sure that athletes succeed on the playing field. There were still issues to be dealt with at SASCOC, but the Committee would work to ensure that theissues were resolved.
Ms Molokwane said that there was a need to work together at SASCOC so that it would show the unity of the organisation. The IOC was not above everyone else, and she asked if Mr Hendricks had engaged with the board, since he had said that sports were his passion.
Mr Majeke suggested that the Flamingo Project report be submitted to the Committee as a way forward, and this would help to resolve some of the issues at SASCOC.
Mr Hendricks gave his word that the Flamingo Project report would be made available to the Committee in order to make sure that there was progress in dealing with the issues. He also referred Members to the constitutional clauses that dealt with issues of elections and the powers of the general assembly.
Mr Mhlongo said that the manner in which Mr Hendricks was explaining some of the issues showed that he was protecting Dr Ramsamy, and he was concerned with this because Dr Ramsamy had opted not to answer some of the questions that he had been asked by Members.
The Chairperson thanked everyone for sharing their views during the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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