The Reply: KwaZulu-Natal Athletics Executive respond to The Witness questions

2009-12-07 00:00

The following was received from KZN Athletics Executive and was sent to every club secretary in the province in response to the Ten questions posed by The Witness following the KZN Media Release of Friday 27 November where the Executive reneged on their previous commitment to hold an open general meeting to feedback to clubs. The original Witness questions are in BLACK

The KZNA response is in GREEN as an indication of some of the views being held by athletics members in the Province.

The following response was distributed to clubs through the KZN Office on Tuesday 2 December 2009

Subsequent to the Berlin World Championships, much has happened and been written and spoken about in the world of athletics in South Africa. It’s all history now but, firstly we had the Caster Semenya saga. The poor girl was not allowed to enjoy her wonderful achievements before she became a political football and subject of debate for all the wrong reasons. Then SASCOC suspended ASA and deployed Mr Ray Mali as the administrator of our sport. Lots happened very fast.

During the initial stages, the entire country, never mind your Executive, were taken in by the statements made by those returning from Berlin. After all, they knew. They’d been there. Then we had the revelations by Mr Chuene that he had, in fact, probably just made a very bad judgement call. Shock! Then the lies and the suspension.

Whilst the saga was festering, your Executive took a no comment stance. There were already too many people saying too many things. Gradually, we began to form an opinion but, nonetheless, decided that it was probably prudent to stay out of the battle and not get caught in a crossfire.

Then things began to move fast. Too fast for our provinces far flung geography and communications systems. Decisions had to be made if we were to keep up and be part of the process and not a result of it. We are a big province geographically, in numbers of Clubs and in registered athletes and officials.

Your executive has, for better or worse, and we believe it’s for the better, taken some quick decisions. Yes. Other Provinces did have meetings. For some, like the Western Province, it was opportune. They had a scheduled AGM. Others called meetings. How inclusive these were only they and history will tell. We believed, after an emergency meeting and much debate, lots of phone calls and a few outside discussions, that we needed to stay in the loop and not be left behind.

How best to allay your concerns that we may be glory seekers and not have your best interests at heart?

Mr Norrie Williamson, wearing his journalist’s hat, and following on discussions, e-mails and concerns that had come to his attention, formulated a number of very pertinent questions. Below are his comments and questions and, as honestly as we can give them, our answers.

Norrie Williamson: Subsequent to the announcement of Mr Skhosana’s appointment to the Interim ASA board, mails and comments were received from KZN athletics members. These contain allegations of mismanagement by the KZNA Executive including operating without consultation or mandate from the clubs or athletes  

KZN Athletics Executive: The Executive of KZNA is elected to manage the affairs of the Province. The constitution does not make specific differentiation in which matters should or should not be dealt with in the interests of our constituents, the Clubs and, ultimately, the athletes and officials. The Executive, did, however, discuss the possibility of an urgent general meeting but, given the time constraints, made a swift decision based on the urgency of the situation. It was decided that, because of our vast geographical area, the lack of suitable infrastructure to disseminate information urgently and the time available, we would not summon clubs, urgently, as we would only be reaching a very limited sample of the constituency. The executive, therefore, took a stand on the matter.

Kevin Bradfield: In today’s day and age where email is transported instantly to cell phones and other devices all over the world, this is a poor excuse. All clubs should at least have a single contact number where opinions can be polled.  For others, an email would  have been sufficient.

Who does the electorate actually comprise of.   We may be wrongly assuming that the running clubs constitute a significant part of the electorate notwithstanding the fact it is the clubs who actually organise the sport by contribution of manpower or expertise particularly in road running.

Having read through the KZNA constitution I believe that the electorate does not only constitute of athletic clubs, however a significant portion on non-sponsorship revenue is generated by affiliation fees, race levies and road running licence fees.  The clubs – are we getting our return on investment.

NR: After the Executive Meeting of  Wednesday 18 November Mr Skhosana stated that, the four delegates being sent to the two meetings, were being sent there to get information after which a General meeting of the clubs would be called. At that meeting Mr Skhosana said the clubs would receive full feedback and then the Executive would seek a mandate. Mr Skhosana was also categorical that KZN was not aligned to either the SASCOC nor the previous ASA meeting – The media statement that followed indicated that no such General Club meeting would be held and that feedback was replaced by the media statement which was lacking in detail:

Why have the Executive reneged on the undertaking of 18 November by not calling for a General Meeting of athletics members?

KZNAE: For the reasons stated above, we had decided that the sample of this type of poll would be very limited and we would be in danger of being accused of “catering to the whims of only the Durban Clubs”

KB: The distribution and distances of the province were well known by the Executive on 18 November when the President made commitment to this general meeting. Nothing has changed in this regard, why was the meeting notice not sent out on 19 November? On the basis of this answer General meetings will never be called by the current Executive. It is assumed that all interested parties are not interested.  Assumptions have been made by the Executive that the general electorate are not interested

NR: Member complaints are not necessarily saying the decisions were wrong but question why there is no explanation and why the executive are not willing to face the clubs in an open meeting?

KZNAE: The executive is not afraid to face the clubs but feels that such a meeting should be as all embracing as possible

KB: Yes and it would be if the Executive were pro-active in sending out notice and recognizing the need for club interaction. The notice of SASCOC’s intention to restructure the sport, to suspend ASA and to consult provinces was at least two weeks prior to the executive meeting. It is the reactive, and tardiness of notice that leaves the clubs in the dark and under autocratic rule of the executive. Even when sufficient notice is given for a meeting (AGM 2009 is a case in point) not all of the electorate / interested parties turn up.  So using this excuse not to call a meeting or send out communication does not hold water.   

NR: When do the Executive intend providing the clubs and membership with feedback in an environment where there can be a free flow of viewpoints and a formal KZN mandate determined?

KZNAE: The executive is calling a general meeting in mid December [Now finalised as 10 December 18:00 at Kings Park Durban] and will, in the mean time, distribute this précis of events so as to enlighten all our members. Should those in far off places wish, we are prepared to travel to their regions and have face to face discussions in groups as circumstance may afford.

KB: As this is released on 2 December and now a  date is given for a 10 December meeting the notice of this meeting will be less than the period that could have been given had the Executive sent notice on 19 November, and not as it seems as a result of being pushed into action. This seems a less than genuine reply that borders on lying to the electorate. The timing now results in a meeting in or near to annual holidays and risks poor turnout, which may seem another tactic by the Executive to disregard the input of the membership. The meeting is now only called because of pressure being brought to bear by interested parties.  Had the lack of meeting not been raised in the media, I do not believe the Executive would have called a meeting.  There may not be an express obligation in the constitution to have called meetings, but good manners prevail and the constituents should be kept informed.

NR: If KZN delegates were going to the SASCOC for information, and were not aligned, why was Dr Logan Naidoo the very first to open the nominations for the Interim Board with Mr Skhosana’s nomination as a KZN Delegate?

KZNAE: You will remember that SASCOC announced that first, a couple of the ASA Board were suspended, then the entire board of ASA and a few staff and then ASA was suspended. That included us as a province, the Province being a member of ASA. We were instructed by ASA to attend a meeting at ASA HQ. We, as an executive, decided that it would be prudent and beneficial to also attend the SASCOC conference on the same day, as this was being paid for by SASCOC and would not be an out of the ordinary cost. Then ASA “cancelled” their meeting and “instructed” all the member provinces to attend the SASCOC meeting. This, we felt, afforded us delegate status at the last minute. Again, no time for consultation.

During the course of the morning of the SASCOC meeting, our delegates cleared up the nagging questions of constitutionality and protocol under which SASCOC had acted. They were told that the Minister of Sport had, in fact, condoned SASCOC’s plans and the suspensions.  

KB: This does not answer the question – All of the above was common knowledge in the printed and public news. The fact that there would be elections was well known and the Executive were adamants they had sent delegates to gain information – The province had told their membership and public that they were non aligned… This is clearly a misrepresentation and misleading of the electorate.

NR: When did the Delegates obtain the mandate to use their KZN positions either to nominate, be nominated, or accept such position?

KZNAE: These decisions were taken “on the run” after consultation with the SASCOC delegation and a few of the other Provincial delegations.

KB: Even if this process was undertaken, what basis does the Executive have for allowing their delegates to consult with SASCOC, other Provinces, but not consult with not one of their own membership. There was absolutely no specific reason why the province HAD to be a member of the new Interim board, there are many provinces who are not represented. This appears to be self-promotion at its worst. There was no reason why KZN delegates should nominate themselves, and their rush to do so as the very first nomination is indecent in the circumstances. A different conclusion could exist had nomination come from other provinces.

NR: The resignation and suspension of National Board members, the external appointment of an Administrator and restructuring of the sport is clearly not envisaged as normal running of the sport.

KZNAE: Agreed. However, the constitution does not limit, differentiate or describe “NORMAL”

KB: True but the responsibility of the executive is to the mandate of the electorate and clearly the electorate had never given any indication of how to act. You have acknowledged a need to consult, and even looked at methods of partial consultation but opted not to make any attempts in this regard. The Executive then tried to renege on a previous commitment to open and full scrutiny of the decisions taken. Only under pressure have the Executive agreed to a General Meeting.  Why are the executive apparently so resistant to facing the membership questions?

NR: On what basis does the current provincial body continue to determine the future of the Province without the mandate of their electorate?

KZNAE: The current Executive and the Commissions have been elected for a period of four years and are less than half way through their term.

KB: The Executive are also bound by a requirement to regular feedback to their membership including annual meetings and the constitution makes provision for General meetings and extraordinary general meetings for this very purpose – This restructuring is the biggest change to the sport in South Africa since 1994 and the KZN Executive apparently deem it unnecessary to consult with their electorate. The implication of the answer is that the Executive feel they may make their own decisions until the next elections in 2012. The parent body has been disbanded and the current executive continue as though nothing has changed. If a head-office of a company was shut down, branch offices would close as well!!

NR: Additional comments relate to maladministration of the sport outside the current restructuring issues and call for an investigation into the running of the province. By example: Questions are being asked on the provision of AGM minutes, lack of financial statements and control, incomplete membership database and apparent contradiction between a lack of funds for provincial teams to national championships while delegates are flown to meetings.

What comment does the Executive have on this and at what stage is it envisaged that these issues will be addressed?     

KZNAE: Funding is a problem, however, plans are in place to stretch and manage the available assets as far as possible. Cash flow is always a restricting factor. This exercise has, in fact, not cost the Province other than a lot of postage and telephone time trying to keep up to the speed of the changes. The meetings are funded by SASCOC.

KB: This does not answer the question.  There are allegations of mismanagement and maladministration and no indication has been given as to when the issues will be addressed with the membership. Information had been sought from the office over the year since AGM, this had not been forthcoming.  All that is asked of the office and executive is open and honest communication to its constituents.  If clubs operated in the same manner, no events would have taken place over the year and the sport would in more of a disarray. Good club administration have propped  the functioning of particularly road running.

NR: Some athletic members claim they are unwilling to be quoted by name as they, or their clubs will either face repercussions or the 'race card' will be played as a tactic against their complaints. There are comments that the regime here is run on the same basis as the previous ASA structure under the suspended President Leonard Chuene.

What are the Executive's comments on this and if denied what assurances are they providing that this would not happen were the clubs and athletes to confront the Executive with their full concerns?

KZNAE: There will always be those who will speak out, those who will speak on condition of anonymity and those who speak after the fact, around the pub, or at gatherings. We, as an administration, are open to all suggestions and are, in fact, maybe surprisingly, kept up to date with a lot of what is being said “out there”. We can’t and don’t always agree but do attempt to take everything into account before decisions are made.

KB: Does not answer the question nor provide any assurances that there will be no retribution to athletes, clubs or associate members who speak out or air views that differ to those of the Executive. By implication the Executive does not rule out the use of such tactics to maintain their position. Also if the Executive is so well informed as to what is being ‘said out there’ why did they  not consult with the electorate before the SASCOC / ASA meetings, why did they renege on the commitment to an open general meeting, Why have the electorate had to highlight the issue surrounding the Vice Presidents suspension, and why have the Electorate been forced to bring the other issues up instead of the Executive taking proactive approach.  Also there is no refuting of the allegation that this province is run in the same manner as the previous ASA under Leonard Chuene – this has been discredited both nationally and publically as the wrong way to go – and surely needs addressing in some format? Furthermore, what is the current role of the now suspended ASA Vice President and recused KZNA Vice President, Mr Simon Dlamini.  Does he continue to be part of the KZNA decision making on the Executive?

NR: The KZN Executive have given Mr Skhosana their support, but the Executive have not solicited any direction from the clubs. Given the concerns of at least a segment of the electorate and the financial situation in the province, what is it that leads the Executive’s belief that their President is the best person to be on an interim restructuring board at national level, when there appears to be so much requiring attention in your home province?

KZNAE: We have, as a Province, begun a structuring process. Not RE structuring, because many of the systems were already in place or prescribed. The Executive have committed to tasks and clusters. These groupings and individuals are dedicated to going way beyond the call of duty and to a lot of personal expense to try to see the sport through very difficult times. One must remember that there is an economic crisis that is affecting sponsors and individuals alike. Financially, we need to put the cash where it will be best utilised. We have established a Finance and Planning Committee which is and will be communicating to the lowest level within provincial structures to gain input and plot the way through the current stormy seas.

Whilst the “body” (the province) is being taken care of by the Executive and Commissions, the members of the Executive felt that the President of the Province would be best deployed along with the SASCOC team, attempting to fix the “head”. One must remember that there were fifteen nominations and the selection process was carried out by Mr Ray Mali, the Administrator and his SASCODC team.

KB: The electorate of the province know nothing about the structuring that is going on and should surely be consulted and presented with the intentions. The establishment of a finance committee is not known by the electorate and can only have been recent. In short there are a myriad of problems in the province, and insufficient people to handle them. The President was elected to ensure the future of this province first and foremost, the recent actions suggest the Executive are more concerned about status at national level than handling the local challenges relating there are other provinces who could contribute their president to national level.

The promises of action by the executive at the AGM of May 2009 have still not been disseminated to the province, who forms part of these committees and what change has occurred within the office of KZNA to keep affairs running smoothly.  Action would speak much louder than words.

National Athletes have been calling for representation on ASA, It is time that provincial athletes take some role in local executive administration.  This will only happen when political activists are removed from Sport.  They belong in Government.

NR: What does the Executive feel Mr Skhosana can contribute at National Level that other nominees cant?

KZNAE: The Executive believes that the President, Mr Skhosana, himself an athlete and long time administrator is best suited to fill a post on the National Interim Board. This is not a KZN post but an individual who has been selected by Mr Mali. The Executive members have, on occasion, canvassed the opinion of others in the sport, among them administrators, coaches and athletes, from outside the province. All agree that Mr Skhosana, his experience and his knowledge will play a vital roll. Other nominees may be equally equipped. However, there were only nine positions available at the time. 

KB: If it is an individual post how did Mr Skhosana use a KZN ticket to put himself forward?  While Mr Skhosana may have the attributes mentioned it seems that these have not assisted the province in at least three periods of his Presidency of the province and we are now in a situation where club / athlete and provincial financial, communication and interaction is at a low point in the history of KZNA – why would this be of any assistance at national level other than to show how NOT to do it?  

At the AGM May 2009, it was pointed out that the current executive was going to sort out the mess, of the previous administration.  The previous administrations were headed up by the same President.  How would does the President propose to do this differently, this time, considering we are already into controversial circumstances again.

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