Comrades divided

2012-11-07 00:00

THE Comrades Marathon Association on Monday night tried to slam the brakes on what has been a chaotic week for the governing body of the world’s largest ultramarathon, amid claims of vote-rigging and even racism.

It has now called a special general meeting that is expected in early December to try and resolve divisions over what prominent members regard as a “farcical” voting process.

However, members remain divided on whether this will entail a new election for the board, with suggestions that if it does not, court action will follow.

The events follow last Wednesday’s annual general meeting at which members gathered at the YMCA in Pietermaritzburg to elect a new board and chairperson.

But what followed was a series of events that led to elected board members Steve Mkasi and Mac Chitja stepping down.

Among their concerns was that the association’s constitution was not adhered to in respect of membership fees and voting and that the elected board did not represent the country’s gender demographics.

Other veterans, such as CMA lifetime member and former Comrades winner Cheryl Winn, did not mince their words.

In a letter to The Witness, Winn expressed concern about the “entire manner and spirit in which the process was conducted, in particular a campaign characterised by racism”.

The racist references used included “they are trying to take over”, “they are busing people in” and slogans such as “Vote right, vote white”, said Winn.

Dave Dixon, who was elected chairperson at the disputed AGM, tried to calm the storm this week.

He called a board meeting, attended by Mkasi and Chitja, on Monday night.

“We met for five hours and had honest, constructive and at times, harsh discussion on what went down at the AGM.

“This is the only way we can learn from the mistakes and ensure proper procedures are adhered to in the future.

“The problem was not with the constitution, but the implementation of certain clauses in that constitution, which need to be addressed.”

On the question of the lack of women’s representation, Dixon said: “There was one nomination which never got enough votes. I am all for having women on the board and, if the same situation develops in December, a woman can be co-opted on to the board to serve in a position, as laid out in the constitution.”

Dixon acknowledged, however, that there was still a difference of opinion about whether the December meeting would involve a re-election of the board.

“That will be discussed by the existing board and we hope to know by the end of this week.”

In his reaction, a furious Mkasi said: “There is no decision that needs to be made. All parties agreed that there will be re-election at the special general meeting.”

Mkasi said that the voting at the AGM “was not done right and was rigged, meaning there is no value in the end result”.

“Right now, the board ‘exists’ purely as an administrative element, good enough to call a special general meeting and attend to the business end of Comrades.”

Mkasi said he still respected Comrades and that all it needed was a clean-up, “to get rid of the cobwebs”.

While the exact date and venue of the special meeting is yet to be confirmed, Dixon said it would follow the association’s constitution to the letter.

In his reaction, Richard Mdakane, chairperson of the National Assembly’s committee on sport, said: “Something like this can severely delay the transformation process that we are striving for in this country. We are trying to build a new nation. I would encourage organisations to have discussions about doing everything according to their constitution. When an organisation does something outside of its constitution, then it creates havoc.”

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