False Start: Four years wasted

2013-12-09 10:00

The first Olympic cycle has passed since Leonard Chuene was ousted as the president of Athletics SA (ASA).

Yet, little progress has been made to repair the sport – financially and otherwise – other than a change in guard over and over again. (see timeline)

What puzzled me amid the ongoing athletic circus were instances where some board members were technically passing a motion of no confidence against themselves.

Athletes are sick and tired of the squabbles, even worse, the persisting banishment threats from the sporting authorities.

I still don’t understand why the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) easily heeded the instruction of International Association of Athletics Federations to back off.

But it is the Olympic governing body’s own undoing.

As the custodian of sport in this country, Gideon Sam and his office, should have doused the ASA fires before they raged out of control.

In fact, when the friction between ASA president James Evans and his deputy, Hendrick Ramaala, became heated a few months ago, word in the sport was that Sascoc had preferred Ramaala to lead the ASA, instead of the unpopular Evans.

Surprisingly, the two gentlemen are now pulling together again in the midst of the rebellion from some provinces as the battle for the soul of the cash-strapped ASA continues.

Mind you, the ASA leadership under Evans has been at the helm for 17 months and 21 days of their four-year term, but there is already a vote of no confidence on its board hurled by 15 – out of 17 – athletics provincial structures, we are told.

This has been the story of Athletics House.

Meanwhile, Sascoc expects world-class performances from the track and field troops at the 2016 Olympic Games, yet they found themselves being bullied by the likes of the IAAF in their own territory.

Let the truth be told. Our athletics are back at square one – more like an athlete who has been red-carded for a false start after all that has been put into preparing for a major championship.

Following last weekend’s events, where an AGM was held simultaneously with a court hearing, a friend of mine, who is an avid athletics fan, asked: “Who is running athletics when administrators are running to the courts?”

The courts have been a regular occurrence in the business of the ASA. The high legal expenses reflected in the federation’s financial report backs this statement.

The sport is devoid of proper competition in the form of the now-defunct Yellow Pages Series.

The event came with incentives, which was a welcome boost, especially for those who are full-time athletes.

Where is sponsorship in the sport today? Niks!

And just how many more times are we going to have ad?hoc structures running athletics because administrators don’t have confidence in each other?

To add to the whole confusion, aren’t the same people who want Evans out the ones who voted him into power – not once but twice because he came through the ranks as a caretaker boss and was later re-elected on a full term?

What a waste of four years.

How little has changed for SA athletics in the last four years

November 2009

»?ASA is placed under administration and an interim committee is elected with prominent athletes Hendrick Ramaala and Geraldine Pillay elevated to the board, with James Evans as caretaker chair. The committee hardly had their first meeting when Evans and Ramaala jumped ship.

September 2010

»?A special elective conference sees Evans and Ramaala return to the board. The polls are called by the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) – which was in control of ASA at the time – amid pressure by the IAAF to hand the sport back to the national federation.

June 2012

»?Evans is re-elected as president of ASA with Ramaala winning the race for vice-presidency.

March 2013

»?Evans is impeached at a special general meeting but fights his way back into office via the courts in a move that subsequently splits ASA into the two factions that we have today.

April 2013

»?Sascoc places ASA under administration and later suspends the athletics body’s membership.

November 2013

»?An interim committee is elected only to be told, just a few days into being “in charge”, by the IAAF this week that the world controlling body instead recognises the structure led by Evans.

ASA financial statement in numbers


The ASA employee costs last year, up by R1.4?million from 2011.


An injury claim made against ASA by pole-vaulter Jan Blignaut.

R761 504

The severance payments to two former employees – CEO Frik Vermaak and general manager Molatelo Malehopo – in labour claims. R78 696 The loan amount to former ASA president Leonard Chuene, a sum ASA says it will write off as it would cost more to recover the money. Who should control athletics in SA?

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