Jan Blignaut vs Athletics SA: Evans tells his side of the story

2015-03-22 06:00

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Former Athletics SA (ASA) president James Evans says the current leadership should not apportion blame for the R10 million damages the North Gauteng High Court has ordered the cash-strapped body to pay injured pole vaulter Jan Blignaut.

He said: “Rather than blaming others – and remember most of this board have been there since June 2012 – they mustn’t escape their responsibilities. The people in charge when judgment was taken by default on the merits [advocate Zola Majavu] and on quantum [ASA president Aleck Skhosana] must take full responsibility. If they didn’t take the courts seriously, hopefully they do now.

“And why did Skhosana’s board never ask for assistance? I am an advocate. Do they really think I would be so stupid as to allow judgment to be taken against default in opposition to a company of which I am a director? They really must try harder if they want to find someone to blame. Better still, they must accept responsibility for their negligence.”

In Evans’ words, here is the chronology of the events that led to the North Gauteng High Court granting Blignaut the R10 million award:

»?The incident happened in 2009 under the [Leonard] Chuene administration. Summons were received in 2011. We entered the appearance to defend and appointed Wertheim Becker [Attorneys] to represent us. The matter was eventually set down for 2013.

»?However, we could not prepare properly as Terrence Magogodela [ASA financial manager] refused to pay the R100 000 deposit our lawyers required despite a direct instruction to pay it.

»?Before the date of the hearing, Sascoc [SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee] attempted to take over ASA and placed Majavu in office [as administrator]. He insisted on doing his own thing and refused to recognise us. Whether through ignorance, negligence or recklessness, I do not know, he did not appear on that date nor did he instruct counsel to appear on ASA’s behalf – at least to ask for a postponement. The judge then granted a default judgment on the merits.

» When Majavu eventually conceded defeat, several months had passed. He had also done nothing to have the default judgment reversed. The advice we got from our lawyers was that too much time had passed and we would battle to convince the court to rescind the default judgment. The advice was to try to settle. We started negotiations, but Sello Mokoena [Athletics KwaZulu-Natal president] and Daan du Toit [Athletics Gauteng North Athletics president] forced themselves in the office and that fell apart. Mokoena demanded the file from ASA’s attorneys.

» The matter was then set down for a decision on the quantum. Sometime between December 2013 and June 2014, Blignaut amended his particulars of claim to increase the quantum from R3 million to R12 million.

» Then in June or July 2014, after the elections and when Skhosana took over, there was a court date with no appearance from ASA, and a default judgment was again granted.”

Evans continued: “So, before they blame me, consider this: Initial default judgment on the merits was taken while Majavu was in our office. He failed to ask for a postponement or ensure that there was an appearance. I think it is self-evident that was not my fault.

“The particulars of claim were amended without opposition sometime between December 2013 and June 2014 – if you recall, Skhosana was one of those who tried to take over in late November. But, regardless, those in charge when that happened must answer for it and stop blaming others.”

» Read City Press newspaper today for the full story.

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