Sport provides comic relief

2013-06-22 00:00

SPORT is a serious matter in our fair land. While cricket, rugby and soccer have most of the attention, it’s heartening to know there is somewhere to turn for some comic relief, something to tickle the funny bone and challenge the mind.

Athletics South Africa (ASA) provides the moments to ponder, wonder and break out in laughter at the sheer comedy of it all. If ever an instruction booklet was needed to advise where to plug in, how to set the dial and where to tap in to get the best results, this is it. This is the cherished organisation that should take care of our athletes, ensuring they perform on the world stage — or should we say, ensuring they get to the stage in the first place.

The organisation’s recent shenanigans are enough to have people believe that perhaps Alice in Wonderland is not such a fantasy story after all. Here we have our own bunch of unusual characters, all with their own motives, all with their reasons for back-stabbing, upsetting the apple cart and ruining what was once their Garden of Eden.

Let the story begin in February 2011. It was a month of turmoil as ASA president Leonard Chuene, vice-president Kakata Maponyane and executive member Simon Dlamini were banned by Sascoc from involvement in any sport for maladministration. Money, being the root of all evil, had entered Wonderland, the serpent in the garden tempting Chuene to draw a salary of R35 000 a month. This when the president and board members are elected to their positions and should not claim a salary.

Ah, the apple tasted sweet. An anonymous official was quoted as saying: “Chuene is an employer and an employee. That cannot be. Audited financial statements cannot be produced as the organisation has a cash flow crisis, yet Chuene draws a salary he cannot account for.”

No prizes for the returned counter punch. “ASA is not in financial crisis. The president in not getting a salary, it’s an allowance,” said the organisation.

Could this be considered a lie as this was said at the time of the Caster Semenya gender issue, where Chuene did eventually bow to pressure and say he had lied about the results “to protect Semenya”? Maybe he was protecting himself too when it came to the salary issue. (This would be a missing page in the instruction manual or conveniently printed in another language).

Major sponsors vented their feeling by pulling out of athletics. A week later, on February 18, despite moments of defiance, Chuene was fired as ASA president, facing 16 charges relating to poor corporate governance, tax evasion and misappropriation of funds. Evil has a way of catching up with people.

It took a few months for the ruffled waters to settle and on July 30, 2011, James Evans took over from Chuene, saying: “If we get stability back, the administrative structures will be strong.” His first plan of action was sorting out the association’s administrative structures as “the constitution is a big problem and it is not as clear as it should be on certain aspects”.

Would a new broom sweep clean? Apparently not, as board members, under the leadership of ASA deputy president Hendrick Ramaala, had a meeting in Johannesburg on March 9 this year, pushing for Evans to be removed as president. Evans said: “I was not invited to the meeting and was informed afterwards that a motion of impeachment was passed. I was suspended from my duties. The accusations were money related, including making unauthorised payments to myself. I cannot access these funds on my own. There is a procedure and authorisation given from more than one person.”

Evans delved into the dictionary and saw that impeachment meant a person is charged or accused of something. Said Evans: “There was no evidence to suggest that I was suspended with reason and I carry on as president.”

He obtained an interdict from the Pretoria high court, preventing ASA board members from taking further action to get him removed.

In April this year, Sascoc joined the fray, appointing administrator Zola Majavu to take charge of the organisation after the entire board was suspended. Sascoc CEO Tubby Reddy stood by his organisation’s decision in taking over ASA’s administrative matters. Then the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) jumped on board, indicating they would consider taking control of the sport in South Africa.

Reddy was ready, and said: “The IAAF needs to see the damage caused to athletics in our country. They need to see the work done by our administrator.”

In a twist to the tale, Reddy’s joy was short lived when a letter received on June 4 from the IAAF said the global body did not recognise Majavu and would recognise the ASA board as the controlling body. The letter, signed by Cheikh Thiare, director of the executive office of the IAAF president, said: “It is a fundamental principle of the IAAF’s governance of the sport of athletics that its national governing bodies are run and allowed to run, as democratically elected institutions in accordance with their statutes, free from any influence or interference.”

Chiare added: “Should the IAAF deduce that conflict has bought ASA to a standstill, an ad hoc committee would be created to take charge of the management of the sport and/or prepare a general assembly to be conducted in accordance with ASA’s constitution.

“What the IAAF will not tolerate is Sascoc’s attempt to take over the running of the sport, and ignore the democratic structures and processes already in place. Sascoc failed to inform us that the ASA board had been suspended.”

Reddy stood firm, saying Sascoc still recognised its suspensions of Evans and the entire ASA board. He and Sascoc president Gideon Sam met with representatives of the IAAF in Lausanne, Switzerland, last week, saying: “We will not be threatened by the IAAF”.

After the meeting, Reddy said the talks were “constructive”, although the IAAF would not withdraw its letter of June 4.

Evans’s response was: “The IAAF does not recognise the administrator appointed by Sascoc, meaning Mr Majavu has no standing in the international athletics community. The IAAF does recognise the 2012 elected board as representatives of ASA. Any action taken will only be recognised by the IAAF if it is within the ASA constitution, meaning any meetings called by Sascoc or Majavu will have no meaning or status, and an ad hoc committee will only be instated if the sport has come to a standstill because of conflict between members.

“They will not tolerate Sascoc setting up a committee and asking for ratification, nor allow Sascoc to bring the sport to a standstill.”

As for an IAAF visit, Evans said it would not happen soon as “the situation needs to stabilise and calm down”. Said Evans: “Suspension is a last resort. The IAAF sees two federations governing athletics in South Africa. The one run by the elected board and the other being Majavu’s lot, which is not recognised. Those who remain members of the recognised federation are eligible to participate in any overseas event and World Championships.”

Reddy has said the IAAF had agreed to assist ASA in constituting a special general meeting to elect a new, democratic leadership for athletics in South Africa.

“According to the IAAF, I am still president of ASA, which is seen as an internationally recognised federation. The IAAF recognises the board by law and internationally,” said Evans.

“Sascoc is in breach of this law and whatever they do, will not be acknowledged by the IAAF. The IAAF makes these rulings that must be abided by. In my view, Sascoc wants control of all sporting federations and is frustrated in not being able to do so.”

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