Xasa: Sascoc president Sam does not respect political authority
Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa was presenting to the sports portfolio committee on Tuesday about the status of the ministerial inquiry led by retired Judge Ralph Zulman and the report his committee released late last year.
CAPE TOWN - Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa labelled the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) president Gideon Sam as "disrespectful" and added that he "does not respect political authority."
Xasa was presenting to the sports portfolio committee on Tuesday about the status of the ministerial inquiry led by retired Judge Ralph Zulman and the report his committee (Dr Ali Bacher and Shamima Gaibie) released late last year.
The inquiry's focus was into alleged malpractice in the governance of the Olympic body. The Zulman report findings were scathing in nature and therefore the recommendations matched the eye-opening findings.
Minister Xasa, speaking to the committee, said Sam’s attitude leaves much to be desired, he does not respect the political oversight and that he is disrespectful.
The Zulman report describes Sam's leadership as autocratic in style.
"His unilateral approach to the management of Sascoc is almost dictatorial in nature, lacks consultation, is not transparent and does not comply with the basic principles of accountability."
The final report was damning on Sascoc, it listed plenty of concerning realities about the Olympic body's leadership. "It is a board that is essentially dysfunctional," says an extract from the report.
The final report added that "there is no compliance with the basic principles of ethics, transparency, accountability or with policies and procedures for the purpose of managing the affairs of Sascoc, including its financial affairs" and continued "an inordinate amount of Sascoc resources have in fact been spent on legal fees".
The report revealed that board members received exorbitant travel allowances on overseas travel, a board that was crippled by factionalism, the lackadaisical handling of a sexual harassment case, almost unlawful procurement practices, espionage and a controversial 2016 election amongst other problems.
It was clear from the report that Sascoc required intervention as head bounced from one crisis to another over the years. The current situation sees a standoff between Xasa and Sam or the Department of Sports and Sascoc, with relations undeniably frosty.
The headstrong Sam pushed back on certain recommendations of the Zulman inquiry report, these are:
• The Sascoc president must be elected/greenlighted by an independent committee instead of the Sascoc council.
• Board members should be required to waive membership of the national sports federations they belong to.
• Terms for board members reduced from three four-year terms to two.
Sam made a public threat at the special general meeting in early February, he said South Africa was at risk of being kicked out of the Tokyo Olympics by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) if the recommendations were implemented.
"If you're going to be on a confrontational road, it means that Sascoc will be expelled from the IOC and IPC."
Sam said he had letters from the IOC and the IPC telling them they could not accept certain recommendations as this would seem like government interference.
Sascoc vice president Barry Hendricks told EWN Sport last week that the letters did not explicitly state South Arica would be booted from next year's Olympics in Tokyo.
Immediately after the committee meeting, Xasa spoke to EWN Sport exclusively about Sam's conduct since recommendations were publicly aired.
"What has been picked by the report tells you the kind of person he is and how he has been dealing with matters, and also dealing with some of his board members; the style of leadership, it (report) really brought it out."
The minister, detecting a future confrontation with the president, believes Sam might feel emboldened because of Sascoc's association to the IOC and IPC.
"These bodies that are affiliated to the international bodies, they think they don't exist in this country and therefore cannot respect political authority."
Xasa offered a potential reason for Sam's current position and perceived disrespectful conduct.
"Maybe he is trying to put on a straight face as if nothing has happened and, therefore, wanting to divert members from thinking (about) how to put up a functional organisation that would focus on making sure that they carry out their mandate and are able to run the organisation properly so that you don't have a situation where money is spent on legal wrangles."
The minister reiterated her position that Sascoc is an organisation needing intervention and has leaders within its ranks who are compromised in the report.
"You have leaders who are not focused on the entire organisational development and making it credible, but, some of them have been pointed out to have used some of the money for personal benefit rather than for the purpose of the organisation."
The Democratic Alliance's (DA) Tsepo Mhlongo asked about the cost of the inquiry but the Sports Departments Director General Alec Moemi could not give an exact figure (just yet) but stated the budget for the inquiry was R1.8 million.
Moemi clarified certain positions on matters pertaining to Sascoc's concerns, he declared the proposed independent committee relating to the future Sascoc presidents, was not to select a candidate but to vet individuals and be used as integrity committee.
Moemi also expressed surprise that Sascoc did not contest any of the findings but only pushed back on recommendations.
Minster Xasa has previously given Sascoc a deadline of 30 April to establish the change required in the recommendations. To oversee the process from Minister Xasa' point of view, Moemi confirmed they would employ a facilitator to be their "eyes and ears" during Sascoc transition.
In yet more body blows for the embattled sporting federation, it was revealed last week that Sascoc failed to meet their financial obligations in the last 10 months with a former media partner.
Highbury Safika Media filed a liquidation application as they look to recoup the R4.75 million owed to them for services rendered for the last six years.
It should not be a surprise that Sascoc is under tremendous economic strain as they posted a R16 million loss in the last financial year and forked out R6 million in legal fees plus their funding from the National Lotteries Commission has been slashed from R100 million to R5 million annually.
Xasa and Sam are set to meet later this week to discuss the recommendations and the respective concerns, who will compromise or budge first?
(Edited by Mihlali Ntsabo)