Comrades at war

2012-11-07 00:00

IT’S been a bad week for the Comrades Marathon Association.

Last Wednesday’s acrimonious annual meeting ended with two members — Steve Mkasi and Mac Chitya — quitting the board, calling the gathering a farce and unconstitutional. And after a week of recriminations, the annual meeting of the famous association was on Monday declared null and void.

Chitya had been on the board since 2000 and Mkasi since January this year.

“I do not want to be part of a board representing an iconic event which does not want to abide by its own constitution,” said Chitya.

“My main point of concern relates to gender equality on the board. It clearly states in the constitution that gender must be represented, yet on the night, Eileen Hall, the only woman nominated for the board, was not elected, leading to misrepresentation on the board.

“I cannot be associated with an organisation which brushes such issues aside. This was clearly a form of discrimination and I will not support this or stand by it.”

Mkasi, an attorney, cited three areas of concern: the chairperson’s term of office, payment of annual subscriptions and equal representation on the board.

“Why have a constitution if it is cast aside for the benefit of others who make their own rules as we go along?” said Mkasi.

“The document clearly states that a chairperson can serve two consecutive terms. No person shall hold the office of chairperson of the board for more than two consecutive two-year terms, which includes any terms served under a previous constitution.

“Yet we have people who serve their term, then stand down and become ordinary board members only to resurface later to be nominated, and accepted, as chairperson once again.

“New people are not being given the opportunity to step up to the mark.

“The issue of paying subs is one which burns deep for me. According to the paperwork, ordinary members shall be required to pay annual subscriptions … by January 31 of that association year. New members have until May 31 of the same year to pay subscriptions, which allows voting at the AGM. This is clearly outlined in the rules … and on the night this was heavily abused. There were people arriving and paying subs at the door. At a round figure, I would say there were at least 60 people who should have been shut out of the meeting for failing to adhere to this regulation.

“When I questioned this, the general response was it had been going on like this for a number of years. This … in my understanding made the election process completely null and void.

“I left the meeting with the understanding that the CMA did not have a board, as everything was done against protocol and the rules.

“I also supported the gender issue on the board. Granted only one woman was nominated, but not having female representation brings the consistency of the board into question. People have questioned this and the answer is to create a forum to discuss these shortfalls in a positive way to move forward, not just palm them off and leave it as an unfortunate incident.

“As far as I am concerned, it is not a race or numbers issue, as there are enough people on the board and there is black representation.”

Dave Dixon was elected chairperson on the night for a third term, having served from 2004-2006 and 2007-2010.

“Having served these years, I had a break in between and am eligible for re-election,” said Dixon. “I have been involved with Comrades for 40 years, as a runner and administrator, and I do not elect myself. Members and the association nominate who they think is the best man for the job and matters run their course. It’s entirely voluntary, with no payment or underhand deals going on.

“The objective is to promote the race, which caters for all cultures, religions, races and colour and, unfortunately, due to the constitution not being followed correctly on the night, the meeting ended abruptly.

“I could not even deliver my welcome speech or introduce my board.”

Former Comrades women’s race winner Cheryl Winn, a life member of the Comrades Marathon Association and the winner in 1982, was also at the meeting. She blamed the problems on “members who feel threatened by new, enthusiastic blood wanting to take over responsible positions. They panic, fearing they will lose control.

“New members’ payments had either not been recorded or they were not allowed to vote because of having paid late, yet no such restrictions were imposed on old members who still paid and voted.”

Winn also complained that the venue, the YMCA hall, was unsuitable, that the sound was poor and that there were racial comments made at the meeting.

Dixon reaffirmed that the association wanted the best people for the job. He said he was given a list of paid-up members prior to the meeting, and when asked why those who had paid only on the night were allowed to vote, he said: “This has been going on for many years and this is the first time it has been officially questioned and highlighted. Yes, it goes against the constitution and needs to be rectified in the proper manner and for the good of Comrades.

“I was aware of one of the members passing an unnecessary racial comment and this has been brought to the attention of Comrades general manager, Gary Boshoff.

“Yes, the venue was inappropriate and not the right standard and the acoustics were poor, but we learn as we go and these general housekeeping rules will be dealt with.

“I’m concerned and very upset at what had happened and what this could do for Comrades,” said Dixon. “It was totally against the spirit of Comrades and what it stands for.

“I acknowledged the constitution was not followed and called a board meeting on Monday, November 5, to urgently discuss what went down at the annual meeting. Steve and Mac were invited and after five hours we decided on a special general meeting in the first week of December. The current board still stands, with Steve and Mac as members.”

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