The Sports Portfolio Committee took a strong stance throughout the meeting with Swimming South Africa (SSA) and SASCOC to act against sexual abuse of young athletes by coaches. This could no longer be ignored in South Africa, with cases dating back 45 years.
Swimming SA gave the briefing, supported by its parent body, SASCOC, and the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture. There was one disciplinary matter which was abandoned since the athlete had opted to pursue a criminal case. In two other cases, SAPS had not continued due to lack of evidence. SASCOC stated that it is inundated with such cases with about seven cases currently on the go and it devoted much of its attention, besides preparing Team SA, on safeguarding matters.
The Committee was not satisfied with the presentation by SSA. Requests were made of the various sporting bodies and federations to implement actively the safeguarding policy going forward; to offer support to the alleged victims of abuse and to be wary of withdrawn cases as there might be underlying reasons for this. The Committee agreed to hold a workshop on safeguarding against abuse.
The Eastern Cape netball team on its way to the National Netball Championships in Cape Town lost four members in a bus accident. A moment of silence was observed for this tragic loss.
The Chairperson noted a similar accident had occurred in a previous year and it was a pity to have this repeated. She had visited those that were hospitalised. The Deputy Minister had called and reported she was on her way to visit the hospitalised players from the accident and the families of those who had lost their lives. The Minister was accompanying the President on a state visit to Senegal. The SASCOC president and board members were present.
The Chair welcomed the Director General Sumayya Khan and her team. Despite today being the last committee meeting of the year they should prioritize what they want to speak about.
The Chairperson wanted to check that all SASCOC members are present to listen to the SSA presentation on child sexual abuse allegations. SASCOC is not sure to handle SSA issues but together with the Portfolio Committee, they can perform oversight.
Swimming South Africa (SSA) presentation
Mr Alan Fritz, SSA President, apologised on behalf of SSA CEO who was away at the Region 5 Games in Lesotho and difficult to connect to this digital platform due to the mountains.
Mr Fritz thanked the chair for the opportunity to present the sexual harassment cases which are within its fold. SSA is extremely sensitive throughout its structures towards any improper conduct, particularly that of a sexual nature towards minors.
SSA was at the forefront of setting policies over the last 10 to 15 years safeguarding against harassment and abuse. It introduced a child protection policy back in 2010 and this policy required those coaching to undergo stringent police clearance and other scrutiny. SSA has been ensuring throughout its structures that safeguarding takes place of its members.
SSA has been made aware of three matters of improper conduct. The first was brought to its attention by a SSA executive member in 2019. The matter was not ready to be dealt with since the complainant at that stage was not ready. In 2020 the matter was brought back to SSA and the SSA executive member informed them that member is ready to talk. Without breaching any rules with law, SSA is setting out to investigate the matter. SSA commissioned an attorney to do this, and SSA followed their internal disciplinary procedures in line with its constitution. A full panel was set up a disciplinary hearing with experts, but the complainant withdrew from the hearing and refused to provide an affidavit or statement. Her attorney informed the panel that she would prefer to institute criminal proceedings on the matter.
SSA was waiting for the criminal matter to take its course and would convene as soon as the complainant advises differently. In the absence of the affidavit or representation by the complainant at the inquiry, SSA was unable to proceed with this matter. What makes it more complicated is that the case is 40 to 45 years old. SSA felt that it best dealt with it in terms of its constitution and disciplinary code. To date, it has no knowledge of a criminal investigation into this matter or the status of the criminal case.
In the second and third matters, the process was dealt with by the SSA provincial federation and it has received communication from the provincial federation that SAPS was unable to conclude the matter and formulate charges, so the matter was withdrawn.
In the third matter, SSA was informed by their affiliate verbally and they advised the affiliate that the complainant should follow due process with a disciplinary inquiry and it required the person to launch the complaint in writing. To date there has been no complaint and no feedback from the person who reported the matter.
In conclusion, Mr Fritz appreciated that SSA cannot conduct a disciplinary inquiry nor affect the rights of SSA members, where process is followed to give either party the right to a representative and to cross-question, and comply with all requirements in terms of labour legislation or SSA internal procedures.
SSA has been at pains to deal with these matters. However, the first complainant does not wish to continue with the matter and preferred to follow a criminal case. SSA will expose itself to undue claims if such matters are done in a non-procedural way and SSA is ensuring that they follow procedure as best as possible within their own procedures and policies.
SSA is awaiting feedback on the first matter, where the member (as requested via an attorney) withdrew from participating in the internal process, and SSA is awaiting the conclusion of the criminal proceedings. Mr Fritz would see the matter through to completion from an internal federation perspective.
SSA wants to assure the Committee that they regard any allegation of improper conduct extremely seriously and SSA did so when the matter was raised, where for example they had speedily took the decision to implement a disciplinary inquiry and establish if there was a prima facie case until the member withdrew from this process. SSA will not hesitate to act upon improper conduct. SSA had attempted to assure the Committee of its absolute commitment to eradicate any improper conduct throughout sport and safeguard athletes to the best of its ability.
Mr Fritz said SSA has similarly updated the Department on more than two occasions, SASCOC and the International Swimming Federation (FINA) so that these stakeholders are familiar with the processes that have been followed by SSA.
Ms van Dyk (DA) thanked SSA for the presentation. She quoted from the presentation: "SSA structures are extremely sensitive to improper conduct" and commented that she found that was not the case with Debbie Wade and the other cases in the public domain. The alleged sexual abuse by a prominent coach was reported to current SSA board member, Mr Ron Anderson, in 2003 when he was KZN Aquatics president. It had also received complaints of abuse by two minors, 11 and 12 years old, at the time the crime was allegedly perpetrated and SSA had done nothing. Apparently SSA had asked the secretary to follow up and only reported during the Goldman investigation with little action before then. Over the years numerous concerns have been raised against the same coach but still no action had been taken.
This complaint was also reported to Mr Piet Thompson, KZN Aquatics president in 2019, who informed SSA of the Goldman investigation and report into the matter which was released to SSA in September 2020. SSA president, Mr Alan Fritz, had refused to act on the Goldman Report he had received. Two months before a criminal case was opened and Despite all these allegations and criminal cases opened against the alleged perpetrator, this coach still accompanies the team to the African Swimming Championships in Accra, Ghana in October 2021. The CEO Mr Shaun Adriaanse also only reported the Rylies email which was initially reported in 2015, in November 2021.
Ms van Dyk asked what has SSA done internally to deal with these allegations according to the Children's Act of 2005? Under the SSA child protection policy in 3.3, it states that all incidents with a suspicion of misconduct or abuse must be reported to a SSA affiliate body or director. The question is what is the use of reporting or safeguarding measures if they are not implemented?
In the SSA presentation conclusion, it said that SSA assured them it take these allegations seriously and responds speedily. Can they tell the Committee why it took SSA six years to respond to email, to tell Anthony and denies he was a member, when in the meantime he was coaching in Durban and coaching international swimmers.
Ms van Dyk requested in writing its screening since 2010 when SSA adopted a child protection policy. Does SSA obtain a police clearance certificate on its sex offender register for coaches which must be done annually. Ms van Dyk proceeded to ask why since SAPS clearance is only valid for six months and SAPS only picks up convictions. She spoke about a system which picks up when there are open cases which is very important.
The Chairperson asks Mr members and Van Dyk to round up since her questions were more than Mr Fritz but while nothing is wrong in it.
Mr Van Dyk asked if abuse victims find the contact details to report abuse when safeguarding policies are put in place. The SSA has responded to media but not made the Goldman Report available to victims. Will SSA ensure the report is made available for it to be used as evidence? Why had the victims not received it yet? Why is the matter sub-judice if there is not an active court case yet?
Mr B Madlingozi (EFF) welcomed the presentation but felt he was looking for a needle in a haystack and things are being spoken about in code and with no real officials from SSA. They are dealing with minors; this is not the same as other victims of this crime, and as such should be treated with more care. He would like to know the age, race and gender of the alleged sex offenders and victims and who the SSA executive member was that reported the matter in 2019. He would like to understand what the presenter meant by "not processed by SAPS". Why did the victim refuse to be in investigation? He became confused where the matter had changed into a criminal proceeding. The Committee needed to know if it would be interfering with the law. If SSA cannot explain those things, what is the point of them talking further.
Ms G Marekwa acknowledged what was presented. She asked the reason for complainant withdrawing from the inquiry. Did SSA officials get a statement from the KZN complainant to say that the person is withdrawing and no longer continuing with the inquiry? In the case of a minor who must always be represented by the parents, the parents write a statement that they are not continuing with the matter and would like to withdraw.
She asked if SSA has a sexual harassment policy in place as well which is more about power and violence in the workplace. She asked about the level of support at SSA if a person comes forward to say they have been harassed. Is there a committee that supports that person until the finalization of the case, whether it is a internal disciplinary hearing or a criminal case since support is very important. What is the impact on the victim’s performance? People withdraw their cases. What can one do to boost morale and acknowledge what happened, since sexual harassment and violence is more about power and gender struggles like in the workplace.
Mr T Mhlongo (DA) asked if Mr Fritz is alone in the meeting. If not, why did he not introduce his fellow board members? What is the reason for him not to take them through the actual presentation that was given to them? Why do a verbal presentation? What is that all about?
He asked Mr Fritz for information and details about the Goldman Report. What is the Goldman Report and its recommendation about? Can he please share this and its recommendations?
Does SSA have any relationships with Women & Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA)? If yes, when last did it engage with them. If not, why not? Before 2019/20, do you have any abuse matters that have been flagged or raised? He asked why the Committee is reading in the media that this has been happening within SSA more than 20 years ago and nothing has been done so far.
Mr Mhlongo asked how SSA assesses coaches. Does it have clearance and screening processes; if not, why not? If yes, then why are they not used?
Mr Mhlongo asked for the SASCOC stance and how far it has gone. What is the status?
Mr D Joseph (DA) stated that he read the presentation and while they did receive a few more details, it did not say much. The outcome of each case was a dead-end. That is the pattern of all these sexual abuse cases. One expects senior management to interrogate further.
Mr Joseph knows Mr Fritz said he had no information on the cases but when last did SSA communicate with the complainant to encourage the person to go through with the case, whether internal or external. This is the job of management and leadership since for someone to come forward is extremely difficult in a male dominant world that we live in, with power over woman. The balance on equal rights needs to be struck right. Why would someone come forward and then all of a sudden not pursue it? Sometimes it is more to do with intimidation.
SAPS indicated that there is no evidence to formulate a charge. He asked what the response of the complainant was when SAPS said there is no evidence. Is the person not supported or given other options on what more one can do? One does not have to stop at that, perhaps more investigation?
Why is SSA not proceeding with disciplinary hearings based on a person’s verbal statement. One does not have to have a condition that the person must make an affidavit or written statement first. He does not think that is procedurally correct. That statement can come as the process unfolds, as long as the person is ready to talk then the institution must listen and institute proceedings. Even while the hearing is on or in a hearing the person must be encouraged to make an affidavit or written statement. However, while somebody is talking, it can be recorded, and the person knows that it can be recorded. He asked why SSA is not proceeding with disciplinary hearings in the other cases and encouraging people to make statements or affidavits.
Mr Joseph had spent 10 years of his life studying in this field. He is aware of how sensitive it is and very much aware how leadership in institutions get the upper hand in these cases – and he wants to say that he is not surprised by the SSA report. It is not a good report given what is happening in South Africa, its history and the current 16 Days of Activism. SSA needs to do more when such cases are reported.
The Chairperson took the opportunity to ventilate. She says it is painful as she experienced what they were discussing in this meeting when six years old; it all comes back to her. To see that it is still happening today to minors despite all the awareness of human rights makes her feel bad. Back then there were few rights. You would not have told anyone if somebody nearly raped you. But now you are grown and GBV aware, this is not justice today. This presentation is making people think back to when they were six and similar things happened to some of us. There was no parliament or MP they could take these concerns to. She does not feel this is justice if somebody who is going through this today.
The Committee has been trying to go deeper into this issue. She wants to be strong since she is a leader and woman. During 16 Days of Activism for some this pain does come and especially today it is coming to the Committee. This Committee passionate about oversight, passionate about the work it is doing, but what it is getting today is not justice.
The Chairperson says the Committee is not getting anything from the presentation. SSA had weeks and weeks to prepare. The presentation was withheld and today the Committee sees that it is empty, simply a few words. The SSA leadership wanted the meeting to be in camera, and said the matter was sub judice so it was not allowed to come and talk about it. Today SSA is here talking about minors and the cases which were withdrawn….
The Chairperson said she had not told anyone in her family or even her husband. She had not been able to talk. Now she is an old woman and she sees how it affected her. She had to be taken to hospital and only then realised what had nearly happened to her as a young child and she was so… (she broke down and began crying).
Mr Mhlongo said that since the chairperson is overcome with emotion that someone else chair.
However, the Chairperson said she needed to be strong, she is a leader. She is passionate about the issue. She did not see anything that the Committee would get out of the meeting with SSA. What the presenter did to the Committee should not have been the case. The Committee would give SSA a chance to answer, but it is getting away with murder.
Ms V Malomane (ANC) said it was a pity that the Committee had this presented to them during 16 Days of Activism, and spoke about moving from awareness to accountability.
Ms Malomane asked about the policy that has been implemented and if SSA has assisted the victims. Are those affected by sexual abuse being helped and protected? She referred to the verbal withdrawals. What were the reasons and what did SSA do after these withdrawals? Did they do anything or did they leave them like that without resolution? SSA can see it is a national matter. The matter needs to be taken seriously to protect people who may face this in future. What support has SASCOC, the Department and SSA given to these people who made these allegations? All stakeholders should act on this issue.
Ms Marekwa commended the chair, she is human and this happens. She commended her leadership. SSA needs to provide counselling and support for victims whether withdrawing from the inquiry or continuing. However, a statement of withdrawal must be made.
Mr Madlingozi followed up his colleagues’ comments on the chair’s strength and power to be able to face her past demons, and not be assisted by the police of that time. The pain cuts deep and the future is worrisome if the Committee does not get correct assistance. For them to come and disrespect the Committee and say nothing means SSA and SASCOC did not want to come to the Committee meeting. This is akin to having talked in a closed men’s room, where they talk about people’s futures whom they disrespect. This is the wrong platform to give nonsensical information and not to care. It needs to change; this needs to be taken very seriously. SSA and SASCOC, have not been touched the tip of the iceberg. SASCOC should know what has been going on but what has it been doing? Why has SASCOC kept quiet, especially about GBV? What is going on? The Committee thought that this would be final meeting of the year but SSA and SASCOC had made it a poor last meeting.
Ms R Adams (ANC) thanked the chair and felt her pain in sharing this sensitive matter. Ms Adams became emotional as well due to the chair’s story.
The Chairperson said the Committee should be strong and controlled as leaders, as these things happen and as leaders they have to take them up. She encouraged them to contribute, even when something affects them.
Ms Adams noted that coaches were reported as the main culprits of sexual abuse against athletes. Does SASCOC hold workshops for coaches and athletes to raise awareness about sexual abuse in sport? She asked about the role of international bodies in the prevention of sexual abuse in sport. Do any national federations have safeguarding policies to protect athletes from abuse and is the implementation of these policies and procedures monitored? She asked if SASCOC and other federations have access to psychologists for youth athletes who report sexual abuse. Will the Department be launching its own investigation on sexual abuse allegations in both SSA and Gymnastics?
Ms van Dyk told the chair she shared her opinion. The Chair had demonstrated the damage done by abuse and the importance of implementing safeguarding policies by the federations to protect athletes. There are many federations yet SASCOC only had one safeguarding meeting in the past year. SASCOC is not serious about safeguarding athletes and the stage of lip-service has passed, and it needed to start to act.
Mr C Sibisi (NFP) says SASCOC are the culprits since they should do something to accredit coaches in every federation. SASCOC has done nothing. The Committee cannot trust them with their kids. What is happening in SSA was uncalled for and the Department needed to investigate. One cannot have coaches who cannot be trusted with kids.
What is it that SASCOC will do now about coaches in every federation? This is not only happening in SSA but it seems to take place in every federation. SASCOC must come up with something that will tell them where it stands and what it will do about coaches. SASCOC is not doing enough, but supported with money by the Department, it needed to train coaches and make them accountable. A coach at national level must have a signed contract and be accredited.
Mr Alan Fritz offered his sympathies to what had happened to the chair many years ago. He had two daughters himself and would like to believe he is a responsible citizen and father.
He wanted to lay down the context of the first case. He is not trivialising it. The whole country is beset with these issues. The first matter is a 45-year-old case hence the approach is to do this procedurally correct, so that both complainant and transgressor can respond appropriately. Unfortunately, the complainant via her lawyer, wrote a letter of withdrawal to the SSA attorneys and the panel of legal experts chairing the inquiry, so it was completely out of their hands. SSA had wanted an impartial approach so that there is no bias whatsoever.
SSA has stringent screening of coaches. There has to be a certain level of coaching qualifications, police clearance for a year (SSA is not aware it was a six month clearance and it would rectify that), Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for coaches annually. SSA was stated to be at the forefront of safeguarding. On its work with WMACA, SSA has its own safeguarding organisation it works with. The Goldman Report is an internal investigation of evidence that will go to the internal hearing which will reconvene once the criminal process has been completed. [Mr Fritz network connectivity was poor during his response].
In reply to Mr Madlingozi question, Mr Fritz said their ages at the time of matter was approximately 11 and 12 years and all were white per classification. There is only matter with SAPS, and this is the matter which happened 45 years ago and SSA has no status report on the matter at all.
SSA takes these issues seriously and he offered any support that was required for the alleged victim but she said she did not need it at that stage.
The legal representative of the complainant wrote to the SSA legal representative and the safeguarding committee legal experts about withdrawing from the internal inquiry.
In the first case both athletes were minors, in the second case it was an athlete and a coach and that was the matter that had no conclusion from a SAPS point of view.
Mr Fritz elaborated on its sexual harassment policy saying athletes are not full-time employed in federations. The athletes and coaches are spread across the country. SSA has gone beyond the safeguarding element to deal also with sexual harassment. Coaches are expected to familiarise themselves with this. There are stringent criteria to evaluate coaches against, including coach education, police clearance, and continuous professional development. SSA is trying its best at this stage to ensure these things are attended to.
Support is important from a psychological perspective, and the federation is ready to invest in such initiatives to ensure psychological and moral support is given not only to the sufferer but also to the parents.
The Goldman investigation was established to determine if it can proceed with a disciplinary inquiry and an internal hearing is the route SSA will take. On whether SSA is aware of cases before 2019, Mr Fritz said he became SSA president in 2016. He is aware of cases in sport generally but not particularly in SSA. The policy in place at SSA is to evaluate and assess coaches, including police clearance and continuing professional development (CPD).
In reply to when last time stakeholders had communicated with the person, SSA had noted the matter has become a legal matter. It has left it in the hands of legal representatives of SSA and those representing the lady. This is to ensure from SSA side, there is no involvement of SSA officials so the matter is handled from an impartial standpoint.
Mr Fritz noted that Mr Joseph as an experienced legal practitioner had agreed that impartiality is fundamental to ensure that no intimidation or no undue duress is placed on anybody. SSA has no information about SAPS, criminal proceedings or charges put to anybody.
He can comment on the internal inquiry which was constituted using independent legal representatives, with two advocates chairing the inquiry and a senior lawyer as the prosecutor. At the inquiry, we were advised of the withdrawal from the inquiry in preference to continue with criminal proceedings. SSA will abide by that until it is completed and comes back to SSA. The independent committee requirement was a written affidavit.
Mr Fritz referred again to the comments about support for the complainant, and replied that this was offered at that stage and the complainant did not take it up.
Mr Fritz is sure that SASCOC will respond about the need for it to provide coaching education and workshops. All he could say was that that it does receive a high focus from SASCOC since six years ago when safeguarding policy was worked on, and there are custodians in SSA that forms the safeguarding environment, as SASCOC will speak on their behalf.
Mr Fritz noted the risks. He said that if the Portfolio Committee need any clarity, he would be happy to provide it.
The Chair thanked Mr Fritz and called on the SASCOC president to respond.
Mr Barry Hendricks, SASCOC President, noted that SASCOC had forwarded a presentation to the Committee and SASCOC was hoping that this would be part of the discussion with SSA.
The Chair asks the secretary to confirm if a SASCOC presentation was received.
Mr Hendricks says he had just received an email from the Acting CEO that an email was sent. He offered condolences to the netball fraternity and had been in contact with the organisation. He also offered his sympathies to the chair. Sexual abuse is a scourge, not only in SA as he has seen write-ups in the international media, where for example tennis players were abused sexually by high-ranking officials. He affirmed that SASCOC is serious about it and would always be.
SASCOC started the process with a safeguarding conference that involved the International Olympic Council (IOC) and others. The outcome of the conference was to commence the draft of the safeguarding policy. In 2012 the SASCOC general assembly endorsed it and urged member federations to take it seriously and incorporated the safeguarding policy. Part of this was the appointment of a case management panel and safeguarding training to understand what was required.
The SASCOC board also required the safeguarding policy and education working group. Its terms of reference was to provide strategic direction, policy development and implementation of the safeguarding policy, play an oversight role on compliance and adherence to the policy, benchmark to align with global trends, develop awareness guidelines on safeguarding and reporting procedures, and providing recommendations on an accredited course on safeguarding.
The SASCOC case management panel was set up and responsible for overview of cases. The panel’s responsibility was to ensure that safeguarding procedures are adhered to and the victim and perpetrator are dealt with correctly. Advice was sought from the Department of Justice, police, Childline SA and national athletes who will share their experience and needs, and policy experts on safeguarding matters.
Mr Hendricks replied that the statement that the safeguarding group had only one meeting was incorrect. The working group had met on 31/3, 3/8, 27/10 and 27/7/2021. The case management panel had met on 3/5 and 1/7/21. Further engagement with the working group and case management panel took place on 9 September and the report was presented to SASCOC membership on 8/5/21. It is incorrect to spread information that the working group has not been functioning. SASCOC will send the list of meetings and minutes to the Portfolio Committee if so requested.
The SASCOC board took the decision that all members of Team SA must do the safeguarding course; some will do the designated safeguarding officer course and all officials will be vetted. No official found to be on the child and sexual criminal register will be allowed to be part of TSA. SASCOC paid for the process, as it has a duty of care on this.
In the Swimming SA case, the complainant lodged the case with SASCOC. SASCOC engaged the member federation through its safeguarding officer. A communique was written to our member following a recommendation received from the working group. It must be noted that the working group had to be ratified and approved by the SASCOC board as well.
SSA responded to SASCOC indicating it had followed due process. As per the SSA report the victim was not willing to get involved in the investigation or disciplinary process. SSA did not wait for criminal outcome as the SSA leadership responsibility is to address the allegation as guided by their own legal framework. The SSA President has indicated the processes it followed.
SASCOC has been inundated with safeguarding cases, and the public has expectations for it to act immediately and of course SASCOC realises it has a duty of care. Over and above, its main mandate to deliver Team SA, safeguarding has become one of key work environments and programs of SASCOC, based on these cases that have been raised now. It has a matrix of members who have completed their safeguarding requirement and that can be forwarded to Portfolio Committee as well.
However, when criminal cases go to SAPS, then SASCOC has to adhere to that particular process. SASCOC recommends that the Department of Sport, Portfolio Committee and all other stakeholders get together to put a strategy in place since a national recommendation is that a separate, independent system must be set up for whistleblowing and reporting sexual offences and that body operates totally separately and independently to drive the process. On the training of coaches, a professional body for coaches was recognised in 2020 by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
SASCOC does not employ coaches. The only coaches that accompany SASCOC are federation coaches for Team South Africa. With due respect, SASCOC does not want to be called a 'culprit' with regard to coaches. The National Sports and Recreation Act states SASCOC must form a professional body for coaches and that has been recognised by SAQA. So SASCOC had done its tasks responsibly. However, SASCOC has heard the call to monitor the coaches space and he appreciates that. Workshops are on the cards and the safeguarding committee is looking to educate athletes and technical officials.
Ms Kim Pople, SASCOC Board Member, said one of the key questions was where SASCOC stood on the matter. She is glad that the Committee is dealing with safeguarding. The work done so far was akin to a volcano that would soon explode and provide benefits on a mass scale, as more people have become aware of the issues spoken about in the Committee meeting.
Ms Pople could confirm she had discussions with SAIDA, the anti-doping body, and these issues was something that will be discussed with the department, possible sport integrity unit of South Africa to have the independence and the legislation to safeguarding. Requests were made to get together and discuss this. There were further requests by national federations for SASCOC to speak to the Department of Social Development as it takes 18 months to get clearance certificates for coaches. SASCOC will assist since one cannot wait 18 months for clearance. There are 28 national federations with safeguarding policies in place and they have been lodged with SASCOC to be audited. SASCOC has setup workshops for early January 2022 to assist the federations that do not yet have a policy in place to submit one to SASCOC. A further workshop has been scheduled with safeguarding experts in SA. SASCOC wants to get one or two international experts on board to assist in guiding it with policy implementation in the national federations.
SASCOC is working with the marketing and communications committee for national media awareness on safeguarding in sport. SASCOC can have a top-down approach for policies but the question arises how does one get to the young athletes, technical officials and coaches on how and to where do they report. SASCOC intends to use high profile athletes through social media to assist SASCOC on big media campaign to make inroads on this matter.
SSA did send through a report to the Department and SASCOC on its cases. SASCOC had one safeguarding case this year and is formally aware of seven national federations with safeguarding cases on the go. Some of them have been concluded and there were both internal inquiries for minor transgressions as well as criminal cases. There are a lot in process.
Department of Sport, Arts & Culture (DSAC) response
Acting Director General, Ms Sumayya Khan, said this was not a matter which the Department wants to keep quiet about. However, it is a matter that they do not have a full picture of. The Department is sketchy on details although it did have an opportunity to interact with the complainant who withdrew from the internal inquiry to follow a criminal procedure.
She agreed that where there is a trend of case withdrawals, they should not stay complacent. They cannot accept that people would simply withdraw their cases, as usually there is an underlying reason for withdrawing. It is a matter that needs to be investigated. Equally she is saying that the Department does respect the structures that have been put in place. The Department and federation needs to start assessing this matter. Perhaps there is some kind of counselling that is needed that can assist and support the complainants to go through this difficult passage.
The Director General expressed her sorrow at hearing the chair on this platform pouring her heart out to them on realising as an adult what had happened to her as a child. It affects one very deeply.
The Minister may intervene and has a role to play if the national federation and the SASCOC fails to act. The Department is aware of the incident by the victim who brought information to it and it has engaged SSA on that matter. It went back to the victim to indicate the SSA position. She was very clear that she will not be part of the internal process and wants to follow the criminal process. DSAC does not have information on when the criminal court case will take place.
Within the Department programmes, it has its school sports programme and in the championships it ensures that the coaches are screened yet it takes a long time to get the results back. They look to ensuring the coaches are orientated and workshopped before they get to the school sport championships. DSAC underlines that these are minors and all are responsible to safeguard them.
With the federations, the Department realised that there are gaps in how they operate and the services they require from DSAC. In January 2022 DSAC will have a session with all federations with new executives. Within that workshop it wants to bring in non government organisations (NGOs) that deal with child safety, SAPS, and the Gender Commission to present to the workshop. When DSAC gives funding to each federation, it has to sign a service level agreement (SLA) that there are conditions they have to adhere to. One of the conditions is the federation has a safeguarding policy. The Act is clear that should the federation not adhere and there are transgressions on the Minister's directive then it faces penalties such as not getting funding from government, having recognition as a sports organisation rejected or taken away, although due process must be followed.
The Chairperson thanked everyone and proposed that they hold a workshop or summit with the federation and department and have their own discussions as Committee to come to certain conclusions.
Mr Mhlongo said that his questions were not answered such as how many SSA members are present and why they did not introduce themselves. What is the actual reason for not getting the actual presentation but a verbal one? Do SSA and SASCOC have minutes showing that the two bodies have met with WMACA and what was the outcome of the meeting? The presentation lacks information about the implementation of the policy. Do all coaches undergo screening and approval before becoming members?
Ms van Dyk also felt some questions were not fully answered. Where on the SSA website can an abuse victim report? and SASCOC presentation mention involvement with safeguarding matter, but want to bring to attention she did test this website process with various people to establish if response for email address on website and all were coming back as one of access denied, blocked or undetected errors.
Ms van Dyk requested the dates of meeting and minutes from SASCOC to prove that the safeguarding meetings took place. That safeguarding committee cannot conduct a disciplinary inquiry based on allegations and speculation. It only called Wade and two other people to testify. Why not Ron Andrews? SSA mentioned three cases. What about Anthony [inaudible] and John Wright case? Why was that excluded? It mentioned details on second and third matters but it was unaware of status of the Wade case. SSA reported nothing on the first matter which is pursuing criminal proceedings. Has SSA checked with National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) because if it had it would know that this case is in the High Court. Also it is a blatant lie that SSA does not know about this case since the Goldman Report is all about this case, and there was a criminal case you know of. Ms van Dyk had written to SSA and SASCOC and there was even a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) request that was refused. A letter was also written to the department to Ms Khan that was referred to SSA so to say that it is not up to date with the case is not a true reflection. What support was given to the alleged victims of abuse? In the second and third cases, neither has been resolved. One matter was dealt with by an attorney in Durban, and the other in Pretoria. The Committee wanted to know if you have actually approached the complainants.
Ms Malomane agreed that there is no information the Committee can get. The Committee has the right to do oversight. The Committee should has its own meeting to discuss the way forward. It could perhaps invite other federations that have had the same challenges and know what to do. The Department and SASCOC need to continue to support the victims. It is not an issue that goes away as it will affect a person for a long time.
SSA was given a last round to respond to the Committee.
Mr Fritz noted three SSA executive were present: SSA President, General Secretary Peter Thompson and Vice President Zikie Molusi. He replied that he had tried to use the presentation and provide them with more detail. It was not possible to put every word in the presentation but he gave the presentation and had gone through most of it. They have heard the Committee say that they are failing at policy implementation, but he can assure it that SSA is one of the first federations with a policy on child protection and they keep working in that area.
On safeguarding organisations, SSA does not work directly with WMACA but it has many, at least seven, safeguarding organisations that it works with. He did not understand what Ms van Dyk was saying about the police clearance. Matters should not be reported on the website and SSA preferred to use internal structures for misconduct matters. He honestly did not know anything about the NPA and the status of those criminal cases. SSA has never received any information on that and it has no powers for investigation of criminal cases.
Its role in terms of its constitution is to focus on who is a member, what is the misconduct and to apply the disciplinary code. A disciplinary hearing cannot continue without evidence and the transgressor has right to defend himself and the complainant has the right to present evidence. In this case, the person has withdrawn from pursuing this as confirmed by the Director General. In the ‘Anthony matter’, the coach is not a South African resident or citizen and the SSA only deals with members of the Republic.
Chairperson closing remarks
The Chairperson requested SSA, SASCOC and other relevant organisations to work together in performing oversight on this matter and not blame each other. Leaders must take on this scourge together. There are gaps in the law and this must be rectified. This discussion had not ended on the work to be done to protect sports-loving children from predators.
Ms van Dyk supported the workshop.
Mr Joseph thanked the chair for her leadership.
Ms Marekwa also offered her support for all that was discussed.
The Chairperson encouraged everyone with their different skills and backgrounds to work together as they did in this meeting to solve issues, and to continue to function so well together in their work. She thanked the support staff. She noted the need for a White Paper for Arts and Culture in future as the work of the Committee had become too broad.
Committee minutes dated 30 November and 1 December 2021 were considered and adopted. The 30 November 2021 were amended as Mr Joseph noted the National Lottery gave SASCOC R6 million rather than R5 million as the Lottery had given R1 million more.
The meeting was adjourned.
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