Challenges facing Chess South Africa & intervention by SASCOC: follow up meeting; with Deputy Minister

Sports, Arts and Culture

06 November 2020
Chairperson: Ms B Dlulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

03 Nov 2020

Challenges facing Chess South Africa

The Committee convened to be briefed by Chess SA and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC). The Committee discovered that the situation concerning Chess SA was deep as the Members were not aware of the fact that there are two leadership groups in Chess SA or two parallel structures, as it is called in the political era. After they heard this and the Department gave their report on what they know, to their surprise, they found out that the dispute they were talking about is currently in court. They felt that because this matter is already in court, everyone must be called in, and even though they are not a court of law, they have a right to hear the matter so that as a Committee, they can discuss with all parties involved to try resolve matters out of court – so that the children of South Africa can enjoy sport without the hindrance of going to court.

The two different executive groups led by two executives – Mr Joe Mahomole on one side and Mr Hendrik du Toit on the other side, have clashed for some time regarding who is the legitimate president and executive of Chess Chess SA. The dispute arose from a series of election processes which were unconstitutional or deemed illegitimate and subsequent unfruitful meetings. The dispute resulted in Mr du Toit’s team approaching the state court, which made it difficult SASCOC and the Department to intervene.

Apart from the disagreements in the meeting, SASCOC indicated that chess players were suffering a lot due to the internal political situation within SA as well as due to COVID-19. They also noted challenges around funding – particularly that Chess SA does not receive private sponsorship. They highlighted the diversity of chess players and said just under half of the players are players of colour, which they acknowledged is not where they wish to be. There was also an increase in women’s participation in chess. Since December 2018, six players have been sponsored to participate in international competitions.

On the financial position, SASCOC indicated that there was R495 000 at the time of 1 July unconstitutional meeting and by 12 December, about R345 000 had already been spent. They said that in order to generate money they host tournaments and operate wisely. The current leadership inherited a bad administration and that is why Chess SA is in the situation they are in.

Members raised their concerns about the two executive structures that exist within Chess SA. They expressed their concern over the disunity within the organisation and its impact on chess athletes. SASCOC was also brought to the forefront regarding their failure to intervene in the dispute within Chess SA.

Further concerns pertained to maladministration within the Chess SA that seemed to plague the executive, with blame being thrown both sides. Members also raised issues of transformation and finances.

There were some exchanges between Members about possible racial undertones being the cause between the executive groups. The Chairperson interjected on several occasions that the purpose and goal of the meeting was to find a way forward so the problem did not repeatedly return to the Committee and that the children of South Africa who so enjoy the sport not suffer due to the political issues within Chess SA.

The two sides did indicate that they were willing and ready to resolve this dispute.

As part of her closing remarks, the Chairperson told the Committee that she asked the Chief Whip that she wants to put a motion on behalf of the Committee to debate the issue of Castor Semenya, as she lost her appeal again.


 

Meeting report

Opening remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting, welcoming the Members, the Ministry, the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee. She said that there is unfinished business from the previous week’s meeting. It was a meeting which emerged from one of the Committee Members who asked a question to the Department and felt that Chess South Africa (Chess SA) and the Department must be called in today.

The Committee discovered that the situation concerning Chess SA was deep as the Members were not aware of the fact that there are two leadership groups in Chess SA or two parallel structures, as it is called in the political era. After they heard this and the Department gave their report on what they know, to their surprise, they found out that the dispute they were talking about is currently in court. They felt that because this matter is already in court, everyone must be called in, and even though they are not a court of law, they have a right to hear the matter so that as a Committee, they can discuss with all parties involved to try resolve matters outside of court – so that the children of South Africa can enjoy sport without the hindrance of going to court. She stated that the Committee's interest is to see a transformed sport.

The Chairperson pleaded that when this matter is being discussed there be no favouring of sides and that the Committee instead favour the transformation of sport. She said that the Committee always wants to see another day to get into a meeting, look at gaps and solutions and move forward, while getting more medals and champions to fly the South African flag high.

An apology was received from the Minister of Sports, Art and Culture who would not be attending this meeting as he was attending a South African Football Association invitation in the Eastern Cape.

Acting President of SASCOC, Mr Barry Hendricks, introduced the SASCOC delegation along with apologies from those who would not be present.

The president of Chess SA, Mr Joe Mahomole, introduced himself alongside those under his leadership, who introduced themselves.

The other president of Chess SA, Mr Hendrik du Toit, introduced himself alongside two executive members under his leadership, who introduced themselves.

The Chairperson asked SASCOC what they understand about the two presidents present in front of the Committee.

Mr B Madlingozi (EFF) proposed that the Committee go straight to Mr du Toit’s presentation because in the last meeting, the Committee heard from Mr Mahomole.

The Chairperson asked for a brief from SASCOC first, with Mr du Toit to follow in order to get a better gist of the matter at hand.

SASCOC Presentation
Ms Patience Shikwambana, Chief Operations Officer, SASCOC, indicated that SASCOC has a dispute resolution mechanism, with a very clear process.  It says that once SASCOC receives a dispute or once a dispute has been lodged, they have to adhere to the process and firstly check whether the member federation (or whomever it comes from) has exhausted their internal due process. This internal due process is guided by their own legal framework and in most cases this will either be their constitution or their statutes. If they have exhausted them, then SASCOC can ask how they can help. Once they are satisfied that the process is exhausted, SASCOC will try to mediate. If they fail under the mediation, then the matter will be taken to arbitration which has a very clear process. If arbitration fails, then they take the matter to the Minister or via the federation to the Court of Arbitration for Sport straight.

In relation to the issue of chess, Ms Shikwambana said that they are very clear as SASCOC that once they fail to intervene and assist in resolving a dispute, they have the responsibility to inform the Minister or Department and refer the matter to the Department for intervention, as per the Sports Act. The issue of chess started sometime in 2018 when they were preparing for their Annual General Meeting (AGM) which was supposed to happen on the 11th of January. They received a communiqué from the president at the time, Mr Winston Meyer, with his Secretary-General, with a request that they were having challenges around the nomination process – particularly in relation to members not being comfortable with the process. They asked SASCOC to assist and become auditors in a way, where they would receive the nominations and be able to assist with the process. The second issue related to the nominees, one of which was not a South African citizen; the concern was whether this nominee was eligible to contest for the position on the chess board. SASCOC met with them and provided guidance because their constitution makes it clear that if a person has a permanent residence ID, they may be elected as a board member.

At the AGM, that was supposed to take place on the 11th, SASCOC realised that Chess SA had to get their house in order and they asked SASCOC to intervene in that regard.

The problems in Chess SA started mainly when they had to have elections. Chess SA hosted an event in Durban which then was indicated that their finances are in order. When the former/late president of Chess SA was around, they also started to have problems around finances and they ended up in deficit after the Durban event and requested help from SASCOC. At some point, they also met with the former Chief Operations Officer (COO), where they requested SASCOC to assist to get funds they owed to pay for their international affiliation. Failure to hold an AGM, there started to have many challenges as leadership. They eventually went ahead with elections and they were challenged by Mr du Toit’s executive not endorsing those elections. This happened in September 2018 when Mr Mahomole was then elected as an interim leader because there was no executive at the time. The Gauteng Chess then took Chess SA to court. She noted that as per section 29 of the Constitution, they encourage Members not to take issues to court. Mr Mahomole’s executive had no choice and did not have the funds to go to court and asked SASCOC for their intervention; they could not do much, but they were able to raise funds to fight the issue with Chess Gauteng.
 
As SASCOC, they are not sure who the legitimate leadership of the federation is. She said that it seemed like Mr Mahomole’s executive was recognised because it seemed like it was through his leadership that athletes were able to get recognised at the continental structure. On the other hand, Mr du Toit received a letter from the International Chess Federation (FIDE) where the president was congratulating him on being elected. But it was not clear whether his board was the board recognised internationally.

Ms Shikwambana stated that there seems to be a lack of willingness and commitment to resolve the matter. Instead of focusing on transformation, the athletes are suffering as a result of these boardroom fights.

Mr Mahomole’s team left the 2019 meeting convened by Ms Lwandile Simelane because Mr du Toit brought his legal team and there was also an individual who came in as an observer and raised the objection that they were not represented similarly.

She confirmed that their internal Dispute Resolution Mechanism was exhausted as SASCOC.

The Chairperson said it now made sense why the meeting was called and why there was a dilemma. She asked whether there was any input from other SASCOC members.

At this point the Chairperson lost connection and the Committee secretary was asked that an Acting Chairperson be nominated.

Mr M Seabi (ANC) was declared Acting Chairperson for the interim.

Chairperson Seabi asked Mr du Toit to give his presentation.

Chess SA Presentation
Mr du Toit said that he was under time constraints when compiling the presentation so there are two slides in the presentation that are not meant to be there, which he said he would indicate to the members.

He highlighted that he wanted to make it clear from the beginning that when they make statements it is not an attempt to attack anyone or point out difficulty; he is trying to put the facts as clear as possible so they can get to the bottom of the situation.

In the election that was held on 01 January 2018, there was an election poll. That meeting was adjourned due to SASCOC not fulfilling their duties as the election officer. What is also correct was that the financials were not in order but the big issue was that technically AGM or elections can continue without the financials. Ms Shikwambana was correct in saying it is quite an issue. However, the big problem was the constitutional issue. Chess SA at that point in time, under the leadership of Mr Winston, who was the acting president and also the vice-president, Mr Mahomole, appointed SASCOC as the elections officer.

There was an email address created by SASCOC, which showed that SASCOC was aware of the elections. When they tried to send the nominations to the email address it did not work. He said that this was around about 9 or 10 December and for some reason SASCOC closed the day after; SASCOC was in a difficult position. He felt that SASCOC should not have accepted the nomination to be the elections officer. The AGM in 2018 was adjourned on two grounds: a) because of the financials and b) on a constitutional issue, because the elections officer was not announced properly and some of the submissions of nominations were problematic. This AGM adjourned up to the 3rd of February 2018. This February meeting was subsequently closed because the acting president felt there was no reason for the meeting to continue as it was continuously disrupted by members. Around the 3rd of February there was also a vote of no confidence asked for by five members, who were more or less the members currently supporting Mr Mahomole. His understanding was that Chess SA has already warned that for any upcoming meeting they had to be in good standing.

The meeting scheduled as AGM on the 1st of July was unconstitutional because the agenda was not there; the format was not adhered to and it changed into an impromptu election which, as Mr du Toit emphasised, was not allowed to happen.

After expressing their concerns to the Interim Board about the issues on the 1st of July regarding the requisite quorum, Gauteng Chess was ignored and Mr du Toit felt they had no other recourse but to go to court. They did not go to SASCOC because at the time they did not trust SASCOC.

The Chairperson pleaded that presenters summarise their presentations due to time constraints.

Mr Kaya Majeke, SASCOC board member, interjected and said Mr du Toit is claiming that he believes that Mr Barry Hedricks, given the opportunity, would be able to oversee and supervise the process better on behalf of SASCOC. He requested that Mr du Toit withdraw this statement because some of them as board members never had the privilege of dealing with this matter. Mr du Toit has no basis to qualify his statement and Mr Majeke was appealing for fairness.

Mr du Toit said that he made the comment because Mr Hendricks is the current president of SASCOC. But he said he had no problem withdrawing his comment and altering it.

He highlighted that one of the pillars of the South African democracy is the judicial system and because the elections held on 08 December 2016 were authorised by a court, Mr du Toit is the leader in terms of those elections and the court’s authorisation.

He indicated that chess players were suffering a lot due to the internal political situation within SA as well as due to COVID-19. He also noted challenges around funding – particularly that Chess SA does not receive private sponsorship. He highlighted the diversity of chess players and said just under half of the players are players of colour, which he acknowledged is not where they wish to be. He applauded their increase in women’s participation in chess. Since December 2018, six players have been sponsored to participate in international competitions.

The Chairperson interrupted Mr Du Toit’s presentation and said that while she appreciates the achievements of the past, there is now a crisis. She said that the two presidents are at lockheads and they need solutions on how the two presidents can come together and strike off the issues that are in court in order to plough more of what is being shown on the slides. She assured the guests that she was not undermining what they are doing, but said that SASCOC put it clear that they failed to try intervening, as well as the Department. She said that with all due respect, the Members not here to enjoy the fruits of the time the body was still unified; they are here to make them one body, as they are currently not unified. She said if they are to achieve anything, they would rather discuss with the leaders of the two executives as to what they want the Committee to do. She emphasised that the Committee wants unification, to come out of the courts, to do the good work that they are showing. Today is, however, not about that; it is about the intervention of the Committee in order to go back to square one. She said that SASCOC tried their best in their role to assist and intervene but they, along with the Department, do not have the money to go to court every now and then. Even with the money that Chess SA has, they need it to plough back athletes, not go to court. She encouraged the Committee Members to say something about this issue.

Mr Seabi concurred with the Chairperson’s comment. With regards to Mr du Toit’s comment on not receiving money from sponsors, he asked who is sponsoring the trips Mr du Toit mentioned. He asked if the two sides were willing to withdraw the cases from the court so that they allow the Department or SASCOC to try and intervene in the dispute for the sake of the children of SA who are interested in chess.

Mr Madlingozi thanked the visitors and the Department. He said his gripe was with SASCOC. The body cannot say that it is not sure who is in charge of Chess SA. He said for them to be asking the outside entity as to who is in charge of the entity that they are in charge of is mind-boggling. He thinks that SASCOC is pushing the buck; they do not want to make a decision as to who is in charge and they are afraid of standing up and taking decisions the right way that it should be, because on the one side it is people who are refusing transformation and on the other side it is people pushing forward in doing whatever they want to do. SASCOC is saying that they have seen the letter from FIDE whereas it is not clear who is congratulating whom to be the president of what. He thinks that SASCOC knows the truth; they should do the right thing and make a decision on who is in charge. Otherwise, they are wasting the talent of kids in SA, mainly the ones who are the bottom.

He also concurred with Mr Seabi on the question of who is paying for Mr du Toit’s faction if they are not getting money from the government. He asked once again: how does SASCOC not know who is in charge as they should know who is in charge?

Mr T Mhlongo (DA) agreed that the Committee wants to mediate. He said that SASCOC failed and he wonders which one failed because there are two SASCOCs. He asked for Mr du Toit to be given more time to summarise so the Members can ask questions, since the other party was given more time the previous week. The question of which SASCOC is being referred to must be answered at a later stage.
 
In the meeting chat room, Ms Keaobaka Dipale, provincial representative under Mr Mahomole, commented in response to Mr Mhlongo’s comment that one president got elected by seven provinces and ratified by the National Council while the other president got elected by one province and an additional member and obtained “good standing” through courts rather than observing the criteria from the Chess Constitution. It thus cannot be correct that both parties are wrong. She asked what is said about the Chess Constitution as it is their guideline. She said that a decision on processes of election must be observed in a democratic view.

The Chairperson maintained that Mr du Toit must try to summarise his presentation. She clarified that she was not trying to stop him but just to consult with the Members as to what to do.

Mr du Toit appreciated the Chairperson giving him more time and her indulgence. He noted that slide 31 must be removed from the presentation. On the financial position, he indicated that there was R495 000 at the time of the July 1st unconstitutional meeting and by 12 December, about R345 000 had already been spent. He said in order to generate money they host tournaments and operate wisely.

He stated that the current leadership inherited a bad administration and that is why Chess SA is in the situation they are in.

Lastly, he says their main concern is with regards to the costs of dropping the court case and that they are willing to drop the case only if they find a way to cover the costs.

Discussion
The Chairperson apologised for the interjections in Mr du Toit’s presentation and acknowledged that he had a well-prepared presentation. She noted that Mr Mahomole wanted to give additional input.

Mr Mhlongo raised a point of order. He asked why Mr Mahomole wanted to speak again. He said that in mediation, both parties are listened to, and they are given the same time as he previously stated. He did not support Mr Mahomole presenting again, considering that he was given an opportunity to present the previous week, unless he wanted to ask questions about the presentation.

The Chairperson explained that Mr Mahomole’s side wanted to add more and that Mr du Toit was not there when last week’s presentation was made and did not hear what was said. She said that the Committee must engage in questions and if there is any time, Mr Mahomole’s side will be given an opportunity. For now, everyone must engage in SASCOC’s presentation and Mr du Toit’s presentation.

Mr Seabi thanked the Chairperson and suggested that Mr Mahomole’s side be given five to ten minutes for them to express their attitudes about the matter because Mr du Toit had given his view on how to resolve the matter. He said that this would assist in going forward.

Ms V Van Dyk (DA) confirmed that the Committee did receive the presentation and they went through the additional material now and said they all have questions on it. So if Mr Mahomole is given five to ten minutes, Members can put questions on both presentations.

Mr Mhlongo concurred with Seabi but said the ten minutes must be given for the way forward, not on what happened because Mr du Toit gave a way forward.

Response
Mr Mahomole concurred with the Chairperson’s directive that they must focus on the solutions rather than focus on the past. He clarified to Mr Mhlongo that they indeed had a way forward in their presentation, and they even indicated in the last meeting that they are more than prepared to work with anyone to find solutions.

Picking up on the questions from the previous week, particularly why Mr Mahomole’s side came to the Portfolio Committee, he responded that they have indicated that they came to the committee as a last resort and he is happy today that SASCOC was present and made their presentation. However, some of their presentation is factually not correct, and they have to assist in this regard because the recording of the Committee becomes the file and the facts of what the Committee found out.

He indicated that they are pleased that the Portfolio Committee created the opportunity. He said that from here, both the Department and SASCOC can deal with the nitty-gritty on how to implement the resolution which Mr Mahomole’s side also gave. From SASCOC, he said that their request to intervene was before the court because Mr Du Toit’s board served them with the papers disputing the election of 01 January 2018. Even after the other court cases, it was before the matter went to court and unfortunately SASCOC did not do anything. Like Mr Du Toit said, he did not trust SASCOC but he keeps saying that the constitution must be used. In terms of clause 33 of Chess SA’s constitution, it indicates very clearly that one only goes to court once they have exhausted provisions 3.1-3.3. In summary, these provisions say that if there is displeasure as a federation or any person in the federation, there are internal dispute resolution mechanisms. In their case, it is the Labour Appeals Board within Chess SA. Secondly, there is SASCOC and if SASCOC has not done anything, then there is the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture.

Mr Mahomole said that Mr du Toit has confirmed, and they know the reason why he wanted to go to court, that he did not follow those provisions; he simply went to court. They felt that that should not have happened because it is a hindrance to the democracy within Chess SA. Even after Mr du Toit went to court, where he obtained a default judgement; this default judgment was rescinded and he still appealed. He stated that if Mr du Toit was prepared to deal with the issue of democracy within the organisation, he should not have followed that course of action: Firstly, because he does not follow the constitution; secondly, he does not care about the people who cannot afford; thirdly, the meeting that SASCOC called after the issue was already in court is the meeting that is being referred to where they wanted to speak to them. They are not saying that SASCOC stopped the court as the only people that can stop the court are Mr du Toit and his group. What Mr Mahomole’s side was asking is to deal with the issues that led to court, which stifle and stop transformation and that they entrench exclusivity. He said that the pictures that Mr du Toit brought are completely different from what they have shown. These pictures can be extracted out of 2 500 people who are there, and one extracted picture can represent only one percent; they also indicate that this is transformation, which it is not and Mr du Toit knows it.

He said if they are interested in resolving the issues within Chess SA, SASCOC cannot say they do not know who is actually in charge. It was in terms of the constitution that elections take place following a particular procedure. If it was not followed it would not be there. The genesis of the claim to leadership and Mr du Toit is based on them going to a so-called meeting also organised by SASCOC at their house where only two Members were there and elected themselves and claiming they had elections. He said SASCOC seemed satisfied about that and while he is not trying to attack SASCOC, he is exposing the facts. But he said they are not going to change what happened, and they cannot sit here and say they do not know who is in charge because both the legislation and constitution clarify how things should happen within the organisation. He said that if they go to court, they will not recognise them and SASCOC has failed to make that clear and in doing so disadvantaged the many that are not in the process.

In the meeting where Mr Mahomole’s side walked out, he said it was after the case was in court. They indicated that they were called by SASCOC; they went to the meeting, they did not have legal representatives; they know how Mr du Toit behaves; they went into the meeting, they talked and he took them to court. So they indicated to the facilitator that they cannot sit in the meeting which is called by SASCOC to deal with the issue and the lawyers are within the meeting along with other people they do not know. Surprisingly, the chairperson in that meeting ruled that it was no problem; those people could sit. Then they felt that if this was the case they cannot sit in the meeting because they could not sit and keep quiet; there was no point in being at the meeting. They believed they were going to arrange another meeting but that meeting never happened.

Another point that Mr du Toit raised that was factually incorrect was his objection to the 1 July  2018 meeting. In terms of their constitution, it is very clear that there was no provision on how to resuscitate a board when the board has collapsed. And then because they read and reread the constitution, they realised that where the constitution cannot provide a solution, only the council, which is the custodian of the constitution, can provide a solution. Hence, together with SASCOC, the remnants of the remaining board of Mr Winston then unsuspended the members to create a solution and convened the council meeting. The purpose of which was to resuscitate the board which there is nowhere in the constitution where it says that this is how it is done. That then created all other problems.

Mr Mahomole emphasised on behalf of the board that they did not mess up anything and they have records to prove and, in fact, the exact contrary is the case. SASCOC, before elections, raised only one issue when in fact there were two issues. The issues were that of a so-called foreigner and a conflict of interest. The foreigner was Mr Erick Takawira from KZN, who has been in the country for ten years. The conflict of interest affected Mr du Toit but SASOC did not raise this. He further emphasised that from his side the only hindrance to running Chess SA properly is the two parallel structures, which is undesirable. In their view, there is no parallel structure because the other structure did not exist in the first place. But for the confusion that has been caused they are prepared to work with anyone, including the other structure, to remove the confusion in the community. This is to also ensure that Chess SA does what it is supposed to do, including activities of Chess SA taking into account that everyone else, rich or poor must be included in the mainstream chess. He noted that Mr du Toit’s team blocked adoption of the policy of transformation. He expressed his surprise to Mr du Toit saying they subscribed to transformation. He said that they, as a team, are ready and that the hindrance is the courts.

Follow-up discussion
Mr M Zondi (ANC) referred to the comment by Mr Mhlongo – that SASCOC has two structures. He said he wanted to clear this up because the Committee cannot sit in a meeting with the wrong structure. He wanted it to be clarified which SASCOC was present at the meeting so that when Members ask questions, they get directed to the relevant structure and not the wrong group.

Mr Mhlongo said that he would not withdraw his statement because when one reads the newspapers there is SASCOC Five and another SASCOC he is not aware of. He said that he is still stating that he wonders who assisted both parties between the two SASCOCs. He said that if Mr Zondi is intimidated by it because in his memory that serves him well, he read all the documentation, there is only one SASCOC which, as a committee, is going for election tomorrow; they asked for it to be put on hold because they do not believe those elections will be free and fair.

He asked the Chairperson whether the discussion could get to the actual issues. He said one of the things that he must note is that they believe in the rule of law, and when they believe in the rule of law, they quote their constitution – either the party constitution which cannot supersede the court that is the Labour Appeal Board, SASCOC and the Department. That is the rule of law they believe in.

He asked Mr Mahomole and Mr du Toit who will be representing Chess SA the next day at the AGM. One thing he had noted is that they must stop egoism and that self-interest is wrong. He said they must focus on the people of SA and chess-loving players. This is what the two parties must think of when they respond. He asked SASCOC, Mr Mahomole and Mr du Toit, who had handled the issue before it came to the Committee, whether they could give the names of individuals or names of board members and facilitators who handled this issue.

He reckoned that both SASCOC and the Department, in their roles at present, have failed to lead this federation. He asked Mr du Toit and Mr Mahomole how many structures they have in all nine provinces. He asked whether they were doing this for SA or for their own self-interest. As a way forward, he said Mr Mahomole must respond to the allegations of maladministration. If they are true then according to the report the R495 000 was under his watch. He asked what happened to those finances and he must account to that. He said this dispute can be resolved by the Committee because they have SASCOC, the Department and both parties. The Committee will come up with a way forward after they have listened to their input, especially regarding who handled the dispute at SASCOC level at that time.

Ms Van Dyk said that she is also surprised that SASCOC preferred to ignore the legal stance as everyone is subjected to the law. She said that it also seems that Mr Mahomole is not adhering to the Chess SA constitution as it was unconstitutional because members were not in good standing. Referring to the Chess SA constitution, she said that provision 33.4 does not say one cannot go to court; it says recourse to the High Court or Magistrates Court by a party to any chess related dispute shall be limited to instances of an alleged violation of provisions of this constitution.

She asked what Mr Mahomole did until December 2018 to ensure that transformation takes place because under his watch it seems like he wants to pinpoint it all on the new board under Mr du Toit. Mr Mahomole indicated on his slides that a lot of progress that has been made within one year, so she is concerned. When she looks at the presentation that he has given, it seems a lot of mismanagement of money occurred and that is why there was the 4Knights purchase agreement in the first place. He also indicated on the slides that no payment of R300 000 was made on the 1st of March 2018. When she looked at the contract, it says four years from within the agreement, so that brings it to 2019. He must just go and check the facts regarding this.

Concerning the finances, she said that he also indicated that there is an increase of 16.5% but he neglected to indicate that Chess SA is not registered for VAT. She asked if he can elaborate on if they are registered for VAT and how that would impact the prize.

Referring to slide 14 of the presentation, she said all those amounts were added together, but they are different tournaments and she asked if all these tournaments are compulsory and whether all players have to attend because it is a sum total of different issues that he has added together. She said that she thinks it must be broken down so they can have a better understanding. She asked if there was anything in the contract of Chess SA that prevents 4Knights to grow the tournaments or have other tournaments at the same event because it seems that this is also an issue that was presented to the Committee. She asked Mr du Toit to give an indication of their expenditure so they can see the costs of putting forth these events.

Mr Seabi said that one now has a view from both sides. He said that from their presentations, there are issues that are relevant for what the Committee is here for, which is to resolve the issue of two groups of leadership which have racial undertones. The other group seems to be pro-white and the other group seems to be pro-black. With the distance we have travelled in SA, he said that this cannot be allowed in this Parliament and the government of SA. It cannot be allowed that we go back where the company is divided racially.

Mr W Faber (DA) interrupted with a point of order. He said that Mr Seabi cannot make statements and create perceptions that there is a pro-white and pro-black group. He said he has watched the presentations as well and he does not adhere to his statement. He asked Mr Seabi to retract his statement with immediate effect as the Committee is not there to decide if someone is pro-black or pro-white as that is not so. He was really upset that a Member was suggesting such a statement. He said it was not for them to make judgements on this as they are here to listen to presentations.

The Chairperson responded that this was a debate and she was going to be worried if somebody was saying these presentations are just black or just white. If he is saying they are pro-white or pro-black she does not see a problem.

Mr Faber interjected that perceptions were not facts and that was his problem.

The Chairperson said that she will give chances to comment and when comments are made on the two presentations, Members can say what they want to say. The only thing that is wanted is a way forward, through which Members can say what they observed and what they want to say.

Mr Seabi said that his input was informed by all the presentations. He said given the chance, Members can revisit the presentation of the Department presented last week and will understand where he is coming from. He continued on his statement that if it was the case that there are racial undertones, they cannot fold their arms and sit back and that is why he asked the question to the two groups of whether they are ready to withdraw the case from the court so that process of mediation can kick-start – whether it is by SASCOC or the Department, but ultimately they have one structure so that they do not divide and confuse South Africans. If their answer is to the positive, then he proposed that this is done and that SASCOC mediate. If SASCOC has failed, then the Department must mediate. He stated that he preferred that SASCOC be the one that starts the process of mediation. He said the main concern was to resolve the crisis of having two structures led by Mr Mahomole and Mr du Toit. He wanted to confirm that they were ready to resolve the problem because if it continues then he foresees danger and the Minister may be forced to come in.

Mr Zondi congratulated the Chairperson and her Committee for coordinating this meeting. He said it was probably the first of its kind where stakeholders are talking about the way forward because he thinks that previous meetings either aborted or failed. He welcomed the four presentations from the Department, SASCOC and the two groups. He said that they all want to converge in resolving the issue. He concurred with Mr Mhlongo that SASCOC must find solutions, but if the two groups are not willing to work together and say they contributed to the challenges facing Chess SA, they will not go forward. He said that SASCOC is the centre and he wanted clarity from SASCOC because he thinks as the centre, they are not holding. So he wanted SASCOC to concur with the allegation against them from both groups. If they do so, he said he will be very happy to listen to their comments on the allegations.

Lastly, he said that SASCOC should have knowledge on the issue of the state of the provinces. Because of the groups or divisions in Chess SA, he said the two groups might go to the provinces with their respective leadership and divide the provinces. He thus wanted to know the status of the provinces as part of the solution. He said that he thinks both groups have knowledge but the better structure that can clarify the status of the provinces is SASCOC.

The Chairperson thanked the Committee Members. She said that some Members of Parliament, not those of this Committee think that Friday is not a working day. She said that as they were here, she wanted to check how the board of SASCOC felt. In the previous week, some Members of the Committee said they must call SASCOC again to ask about their readiness. But the Portfolio Committee felt that they see that they are not ready to go for the elections which are tomorrow, but SASCOC are insisting that they are. She noted that today the leadership of Chess SA said they have no confidence in the SASCOC board and that the board did not do anything about their problems, but tomorrow SASCOC is saying they are going to elections. As the Committee, the Members emphasised that they do not see that SASCOC is ready. As some of the Members have said, they are having by-elections, and she was invited but then she waived that invitation to Mr Seabi. She did not want to disrespect the invitation and decided that at least one of the Members must go represent the Committee. She stated that they are not defying SASCOC but she maintained that they are not ready for elections. She said when two leadership bodies are caught in this battle and saying SASCOC did not assist until one of them court, the centre is clearly not holding.

When someone is talking about the status of provinces, she wishes they finish the day of tomorrow but they will still be here as a Committee and they will want to see how they for their provincial sport federations. She tasked them to go ahead with their conference to answer these questions immediately after.

She said that they cannot, every now and then, have a SASCOC that people are complaining about. She pleaded that SASCOC must take all that was put to court and come together as South Africans who have an interest in building the future of Chess SA. She said that she wants no further division but a way forward. She asked if SASCOC still has the power to unify Chess SA. She said the Committee is here to assist and they can provide oversight. The ball is in the court of the Department and Chess SA. SASCOC still has to go sort themselves out as they are not yet a united body but they are here to work towards unification.

Mr Faber stated that the body does not judge as a committee and that is why there are courts if things cannot be resolved in another structure. He stated that he has listened to both sides and to everyone, and he has applied his mind. He said that when people have certain perceptions they must be able to qualify them.  He was upset by comments of perceptions of racial undertones but if he cannot move past that then this is why there are courts. Even though it is unfortunate that one has to go to these extremes, if that is the route that must be followed then so be it. He said they cannot let political interference overrule what is right or wrong because of perceptions.

Mr Mhlongo concurred with the Chairperson. He asked if the Department communicated with both parties, and how and what that outcome was. If not, why not? He asked whether the Department could explain why they had a view or posture that this issue or dispute was pro-white or pro-black. He asked the acting president of SASCOC who actually helped with the dispute. He said that the Chairperson must go on her own capacity as an individual to the AGM and not Mr Seabi on behalf of the Committee. He does not support tomorrow’s AGM because it will not be free and fair, so why was the Chairperson going with the Committee’s ticket to the AGM?

Ms Van Dyk said that SASCOC Five won the arbitration and they have stuck to what their interpretation was of their contribution. As with Chess SA, the court has decided that the 1st July 2018 meeting was unconstitutional. She said that the legal system must never be undermined. She concurred with Mr Mhlongo and Mr Faber that when there are issues that can be resolved, the court must be used as a remedy.

Mr Seabi agreed with Mr Mhlongo that maybe before a way forward is developed, they must allow the parties to respond to the questions. He referred to the report presented by the Department on Tuesday. The report under ‘challenges’ says “there are serious elements or tendencies of racial undertones in all these fights.”. Furthermore, it says “the current worrying two sides claiming to be the legitimate leadership of Chess SA are divided along colour and racial lines” as reported. He said he made his previous comment based on this report, and if there is a dispute, then the dispute must target the report and not his input.

The Chairperson asked two presidents to give their closing remarks and the way forward.

Mr Mahomole answered Ms Van Dyk’s question regarding the tournaments and said that the presentation was a sketch to indicate how the tournament as it is; it has too many participants, majority whom are people who can afford to attend the tournament, and it excludes the rest. He indicated that this has been the case in Chess SA for a long time and that is the reason why, in order to bring the voice of the marginalised, they had to stand for the elections to try and deal with the issue of transformation. Unfortunately, they were met with court processes which, in their view, were not even relevant because they were trying to interpret the constitution. Their focus on the tournament was to highlight the fact of exclusion of the majority and the issue of exclusion on the basis of high cost. So what they quoted was to show how that has been excluding too many people over the years.

On the issue of maladministration of funds, he explained that he did not mean to do self-justification, but he said that even if Mr du Toit wants to use his name, he knows very well that some of the issues his quoting about the past board; he, as Mr Mahomole, has inherited those people and he is working with them. He said his team is only being blamed for trying to save Chess SA. The majority of the people who were messing up Chess SA, which Mr du Toit can accept or deny, are the people who led to what is called the ‘bail-out’. This creates conflict of interest and confusion within Chess SA. In order to back it up, Mr du Toit’s team then came up with the issue of trying to stand for election; they were defeated and went to court, where they still are for reasons he does not know. Mr Mahomole said he can only interpret that they are trying to justify the continuation of their own business because as it stands, if he claims to be the president, in terms of the bail-out contract, it is the director of the 4Knights events company, which is Mr du Toit, that must talk to the president and executive committee of Chess SA about how the tournament is going to be run. So Mr du Toit is talking to himself if he claims that he is the president of Chess SA. Mr Mahomole’s team denies that fact and he pointed out that the claim that the courts must be respected and they dealt with that. But he said it never existed that there was a board elected by Mr du Toit and SASCOC must look at this.

On the issue of maladministration, they made a recommendation on their slides they can attest to. SASCOC and the Department must investigate then come to the Committee and present their findings. They can only say as the interim board, Mr Mahomole’s team only came in August and many of the things that Mr du Toit mentioned happened before they came in.

In response to the question of who tried to assist Chess SA, he emphasised that the intervention by SASCOC in the matter of Chess SA did not happen decisively before any other attempt or before it was in court. Before it was in court, SASCOC only came and asked whether the collapsed board can try to convene a meeting to resolve the issue of resuscitating the board. Personally, Mr Mahomole also called Mr Barry Hendricks, as vice-president of SASCOC, to intervene then but unfortunately, to his disappointment, he did not intervene or assist. As for who did try to assist Chess SA, he said that Ms Merrill King was sent by SASCOC board and Ms Simelane, after the case was in court, where she allowed the other group to come with their lawyers and intimidate everyone. They even wrote to the Department that they accept that the matter is in court and the people who can take the matter out of court are those who took it there. But they request that the Department and SASCOC intervene and they still stand by this.

In response to who was going to represent Chess SA in the AGM tomorrow, he said SASCOC must answer this, even though Mr Mahomole’s team received an invitation but he did not know whether they were going to be allowed to participate. He said that it is rather unfortunate that they are put in the same basket with the people that actually created the big problem, especially on going to court. He said his team came in to try to save Chess SA but they are now being blamed and taken out before court. His team only went to court to defend itself because on the 6th of December, the team hoped that SASCOC and the Department were going to try to assist. Default judgments were given against them and they only defended themselves using counter-applications.

He said they still believe that the issue of Chess SA  can be put right, they put players first because he has been there as a player and he knows the plight of a player from a poor background. They believe they can resolve this and they can work with the other group to make sure things and elections are done properly. He emphasised that the courts came in as a way to stop elections. He is happy that the Committee and others are saying that the issue of the courts must be revised. He said there have been initiatives by provinces that the two boards should speak and his team has always cooperated. The reason there is no progress is the other party is not coming on. He emphasised that they are ready as a board to resolve, but they do not embrace the wrong things that are happening and they do not believe they should be overlooked and hence they say there must be full investigation to the issues of conflict of interest and finances.

While Mr Mahomole was speaking, Ms Van Dyk, in the chat, asked that if the issues were historical, why put them under Mr du Toit’s name, as he only started in December 2018.

Ms Liezel Ahjum, General-Secretary, Chess SA, responded to Ms Van Dyk and said that Mr du Toit was the president of Chess SA when the international body suspended Chess SA. She said Mr du Toit was the treasurer of Chess SA when the FIDE debt was accumulating, which caused the bail-out and the treasurer who has not been able to produce financial statements, Mr Shanks Naidoo is now on Mr du Toit’s board. She said Mr du Toit did not start in December 2018; he preceded all of them.

Mr du Toit responded in the chat that Ms Ahjum is incorrect. He said he stood in 2013 with no debt to FIDE. He said it was taken over by Mr Oberholzer and he was not on the board after that.

Ms Ahjum responded to Mr du Toit that she was just correcting the fact that there is an impression that he has not been part of previous boards. She maintained that he has been part of all issues.

Mr du Toit said that in order to make money, the tournaments that they host in general do have high entry fees and there is no question about this. But what they do is that they take a little bit more from those that can afford it and if they host a good tournament and they spend a little bit more, they take all that money for transformation and they pay for the players. He challenged Mr Mahomole and anyone else to show that they have spent more than what Mr du Toit’s team has spent on transformation.

He said that he was very surprised that Mr Mahomole got an invite from SASCOC to represent Chess SA. He said that as his presentation indicated, there was a letter from SASCOC which said they are not recognised in any one of these two boards. He said that the fact that he finds out that Mr Mahomole is representing Chess SA builds on their objection that they do not trust SASCOC. This is because SASCOC says one thing behind their backs and then does something else. He said he would not go to SASCOC for help and he cannot be expected to if they do such things. He formally objected to Mr Mahomole being invited to the meeting to represent Chess SA. He said no one helped him at SASCOC even though they wrote several letters, to which they did not receive a response. Mr du Toit said at one stage Mr Ravi Govender phoned him; he promised he would get back to him. Mr du Toit even wrote a letter to Mr Govender asking for a response to no avail, and then he just gave up. He reiterated his point that he cannot trust SASCOC and until SASCOC fixes this, they will end up in court again – not that he wants to but because it is the price he has to pay to fight for their democracy.

Mr du Toit objected to Mr Seabi’s statement as well as the statement in the Department’s report that there is a pro-white faction. He objected to Mr Mahomole’s statement that the majority of the people of the past are on his board and clarified that there are one or two from the past but not all and have not served while he has been serving. He said that he does not talk to himself like Mr Mahomole stated, but that he simply recuses himself in conflict situations. He also objected to Mr Mahomole’s statement that he was against transformation. Mr du Toit claimed that he was not against transformation but he was against the policy that Mr Mahomole tried to implement with absolutely no plan and targets that Chess SA would not be able to make within the timeframe that he put. He said he would rather put targets in place with plans they can enforce. He said that he is willing to sit around the table and sort these issues out – these issues being compliance, good standing, getting structures right so they can have a credible election. Unfortunately, there will always be the matter of the current court costs and they should have never gone to the courts. Mr Du Toit said that Mr Mahomole should have listened when they told him that he is busy with unconstitutional issues and should have come to the table. He thus said the court costs issue would be the first thing they need to address and find a solution to.

While Mr du Toit was speaking, Mr Watu Kobese, Head Coach in Chess SA, stated in the chat that he did not understand this “Robin Hood approach” claim from Mr du Toit. He said Mr du Toit was talking about a junior event where players must pay an arm and a leg to represent their country. To play for SA at any level one needs a lot of money. He exemplified that he was an African Champion in 2001, having won in Egypt. He said he has not played in the past three such tournaments due to the fees that players must pay as it would cost as much as R30 000 to represent SA in these events. He said that Mr du Toit wants a situation where money, rather than talent, is a factor.

Mr du Toit responded that somebody has to pay. He said that venues are not free and that they sponsor more than 100 talented players every year. He said that if Mr Kobese knows how to make it free, he must speak up. In response to Ms Ahjum, he said that when he handed over the finances in 2013, there were Annual Financial Statements and no debt. So yes he was part of it, but it is clear.

Mr Kobese responded that there is a way to drastically reduce the costs and the plan was being discussed by them.

Mr du Toit stated that he was all ears.

Mr Kobese said they would bring the plan to light as soon as this mess is resolved.

Deputy Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Ms Nocawe Mafu, thanked and commended the Members of the Committee on how they have been handling the issues and had no doubt that their only interest was to ensure that Chess SA be back to its former glory and be managed the way it should be. From both groups, she said that despite seemingly having disagreements, one is comforted by the fact that there seems to be one agreement that they both want to resolve the issue and make sure that they ultimately preside over a legitimate structure. She said she was comforted by the fact that there is a commitment that the court case can be reviewed and both parties go back to the table. If the issue of arbitration is still handled by SASCOC, the Department is not able to intervene on that issue until SASCOC is able to say they have exhausted arbitration. Unfortunately, it is known that SASCOC at this point in time is not in a healthy state and the Department therefore has not been able to intervene because SASCOC was still busy with the issue of arbitration. As soon as the body are able to ask the Department to intervene in the management of SASCO, they will. She hoped the Committee would be able to give further guidance.

The Chairperson said that the Committee does hear both sides; she asked SASCOC to say something about the way forward, as the two leaders are prepared to go back to the table, with the issues now being the court costs.

SASCOC’s response
Mr Hendricks said that in SASCOC’s intervention, Ms Simelane was charged with the issue because she was heading governance within SASCOC and Ms Merrill King before that because she was the chair of the membership committee. He said that he was not involved as he was acting president and the president at the time was Mr Gideon Sam. He acknowledged that Mr Mahomole did give him a call and he said he advised him on that call that the process was being handled according to SASCOC’s internal dispute resolution mechanisms. To qualify this, he said that SASCOC did exhaust their internal dispute resolution mechanisms, mainly because the member federation did not respect their constitution and clause 29 which deals with disputes. He said they also wrote correspondence to the international federation but did not receive a response or direction. Their judicial body advised them not to intervene as the matter was in a court of law. In trying to exhaust the whole process, they finally sent a file with all documents to the Department as decided by the board. However, having heard the approach taken by the Committee and its Members, as well as the Deputy Minister, he said he does not think that the current board of SASCOC would mind reconsidering the approach and try to resolve this matter in an amicable manner. He said they can do that while sitting with the Department to try and plot the way forward. He said that even though they sent the final recommendation to the Department, if they would like them to start the process again, the board can decide on that matter.

Department’s response
The Director-General of the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, Mr Vusi Mkhize, said that the biggest threat was the subject nature of the case and that is why the Department was not in a position to intervene unless a party withdraws the legal issue. He said the Department’s intervention and the court case cannot be run concurrently because their constitution enjoins them to respect the judicial process.

On the issue of SASCOC’s and the Department’s role, he said that the Department believes that SASCOC had initiated the arbitration process that seemingly could not reach a conclusion. He said that if the issue will be tried to be resolved outside of court, the Department will then have to explore because it will be outside of the courts. They will remain committed to finding solutions outside of court for the benefit of Chess SA and not individual leadership. He said if they see the need to appoint an independent arbitrator, they will do so.

Closing discussion
Mr Mhlongo stated it is clear that SASCOC has failed and taken a side. He said that for example, they have invited one faction over the other at tomorrow’s AGM and this shows that they take sides. He asked Mr Hendricks why this issue was not discussed at a board level because it seems like it was Mr Hendricks himself, the former president and staff members that knew about this issue.

He asked Mr Mahomole whether he was pro-blacks or not because Mr du Toit vehemently dismissed that he is pro-white. He said he believes that sports affects rich or poor, black or white and one of the things they all did not answer was the question of egoism and self-interest. With this attitude, sports will not go anywhere. He called upon the Committee to come up with solutions, not SASCOC, because they have declared that they have failed.

Mr Hendricks responded to Mr Mhlongo that the whole board knew about the matter because a board resolution on the matter was sent to the Department. He said he was not part of the Chess matter; two other board members participated in that process.

Mr Mhlongo acknowledged this response. He said that he has a view that the Deputy Minister stated clearly that there is an unhealthy status within SASCOC. He asked the Deputy Minister what her view of the fact that they are having an AGM. He noted that SASCOC had exhausted every avenue and asked Mr Hendricks which of the two parties did not want to take the internal processes. He further asked why they only recognised one of the two parties – one is invited and the other is not.

Mr Faber also asked why SASCOC only invited one of the parties to the AGM and not the other. It seems that they did not even inform Mr du Toit of this. He asked whether the party invited would have voting rights and what if there is a court case at the end and the wrong party was invited.

The Chairperson expressed her worry that most of the questions are to SASCOC. She said that she has received questions from Members about why she was invited as the Chairperson and statements that the fully-fledged Committee must be invited; so clearly the Committee does not approve that she must go to the AGM. She said SASCOC must learn to have listening skills. Besides, now that they have invited one person they are continuing with disunity. She asked SASCOC what kind of leaders they are. She felt bad because they were supposed to note the further division they were causing.

Mr Seabi agreed with Mr Mhlongo that in their last meeting, the Committee and the entity agreed that the AGM must not proceed as scheduled but against this decision, it is continuing. He agreed that as a Committee they should not be represented there so that they are able to deal with the issue when it comes back to the Committee. He said that there is a commitment from both sides of Chess SA and the process must be allowed to continue. From a parliamentary point of view, they do not want to be seen running sports as politicians. He said they will come in when it is necessary and the relevant structure, SASCOC, and the Department must deal with it so that the Committee can provide oversight and make sure they unify the structure. If the two sides refuse to unite because of self-interest, he thinks that there is a way that the Department, through the Minister and with the blessing of the Committee, can intervene. He said that SASCOC must initiate the process of uniting the two parties.

Ms R Adams (ANC) wrote in the chat that she agreed with Mr Seabi. 

The Chairperson said there was no way they can force SASCOC to rewrite an invitation to another party.

Ms Shikwambana confirmed that they did not send any communiqué to Mr Mahomole’s group in terms of an invitation. She said that they do not have him on their list and she suspects that he got the invitation from other leaders he talks to. She clarified that in 2019 they had their AGM and special general meeting, and in their minutes their position is clear that since they are not sure who the leader is, they cannot invite one and not the other. She said that it was unfortunate that once their members decide to take their issues to a court of law, they are put in an awkward position. If members are not happy with their mediation, there is a clear process the dispute must go to arbitration and that has not happened. She said, on the position taken now that SASCOC must come back to assist, their process will be that they work together with the Department as usual. She indicated that in their 2019 AGM, they approved a document called Norms and Standard of Good Governance. This document will address some of the issues that the Portfolio Committee has raised around structures for member federations.

Mr Mhlongo asked for a way forward again. He said that as a committee they tend not to come up with solutions. He said that if SASCOC has failed and they have declared that they have failed to come up with a solution and the Department has failed, the Portfolio Committee must do something.

He noted that Mr du Toit said he is prepared for mediation but the only issue is cost. He proposed that the Committee can take over the issue while noting legal opinions but insisted that they are not interfering; this was not political and the Members not undermining the rule of law. When they need assistance from SASCOC, they will take it.

The Chairperson said that the way forward was indicated by Ms Shikwambana, who said that the process would be similar to that of the South African National Boxing Organization (SANABO) and Boxing South Africa, and the Committee will monitor with timeframes that they are doing this.

Mr Mhlongo said that he does not support the Chairperson’s posture because SASCOC, in the SANABO and Boxing SA issue, did not take a position. But in this situation, SASCOC has supported one group and concluded. This tells him that they are biased.

Mr Hendricks interjected and clarified that no side was taken.

Ms Ahjum said they received communication from SASCOC via the office of Narisha, who is assisting the member from the International Olympic Committee, Dr S Ramsamy, who is overseeing the elections. Like all other federations they received that communication and as requested, they responded in that regard.

Mr Mhlongo said it was still wrong for SASCOC members to say they do not know about this invite as it shows that the facilitator is not even reporting back to the board. He said that this was a point on its own that the acting president is not aware that there are invites that have been sent.

Mr Mkhize said that it was incorrect to say that the Department failed because they have stated their rationale and their reasons.

[About 3:47:50 hours into the meeting, connection was lost and about eight minutes of the meeting was missed]

Closing Remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson reiterated that tomorrow's event would not be free and fair and that they would not be part of it. She noted that this was not an easy meeting but everyone respected each other.

She told the Committee that she asked the Chief Whip that she wants to put a motion on behalf of the Committee to debate the issue of Castor Semenya, as she lost her appeal again. She wanted a letter to be circulated to all Members, appealing to all Members of Parliament to support Semenya until they change their minds about the letter. She appealed that the House the Committee.

She thanked the Members for attending the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.


 

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