KZN Athletics fight turns ugly

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iol spt feb25 Comrades

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The Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) has solicited the Msunduzi municipality's support to change the date of the Comrades marathon.

Allegations of lies and fraud peppered a court application yesterday in which KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA) tried to overturn a court order directing it to hold an annual general meeting before the end of next month.

But acting Durban High Court Judge Alex Jeffrey said it was exactly because of this “rancour and bitterness” that the meeting needed to be held.

His previous order only directed that the organisation should carry out its obligations in terms of its own constitution, he said, dismissing yesterday’s application with costs.

The interim order he granted in early February, which had immediate effect, was as a result of an urgent application brought by Phuma KZN Athletics club.

In an affidavit, the club’s manager, Steve Mkasi, who is also an attorney, said the constitution required that the meeting be held at the end of March on 45 days’ notice to members.

If the members did not receive the notice that afternoon, the meeting could not be held, financials could not be approved, and athletics activities in the province could be cancelled, including the Comrades Marathon.

Legitimacy

Mkasi also made reference to ongoing infighting in organised athletics in South Africa and said Athletics South Africa (ASA) had suspended the boards of various provincial athletics bodies, including KZNA, last year, making the legitimacy of the current provincial executive questionable.

With the return date for the application tomorrow, KZNA came to court early yesterday asking for “reconsideration” of the order.

This is permitted in circumstances in which a person complains of an injustice through the granting of an order against them in an urgent application where they were not present. KZNA president Sello Mokoena alleged Mkasi had acted “deliberately” in not giving proper notice and accused him of not telling the truth in his application, including that the executive’s suspension had been overturned by court order.

He said it had become common practice “for a number of years” for the body to hold its annual general meeting after the expiration of the period in the constitution because financials were not ready, as was the case this year.

Mokoena said Mkasi was siding with James Evans, the previous ASA president, who is involved in a leadership battle.

But Mkasi said application papers had been faxed and e-mailed. He insisted there was no court order reinstating the board and said allegations that he tried to mislead the court were “scurrilous and vexatious”.

He said as a member of KZNA, his club was within its rights to insist it acted in accordance with its own rules.

After hearing argument, the judge said the only “prejudice” alleged through the granting of the interim order was that the financials were not ready, the meeting would be a “fruitless exercise” and members would be inconvenienced.

This, he said, was not enough to persuade him to reconsider the order.

The interim order application will be back in court tomorrow and KZNA will have to decide whether or not to oppose its being made final.

Yesterday’s court action appeared to fly in the face of an e-mail Mokoena sent to all provincial clubs earlier in the day detailing talks which took place at the weekend with International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) representative Cheikh Thiare, who came to South Africa to sort out the mess.

He said a new interim committee would be formed to run ASA for 90 days “ensuring provincial, national and international programmes are back on track”, ahead of fresh elections for the national body.

Anyone on the interim body would not be allowed to stand for election.

“Most important, is the IAAF made it clear they pour scorn on any judicial route to resolve athletics,” said Mokoena, adding that everyone had been encouraged to withdraw all pending litigation and to lift all suspensions.

The ASA council had unanimously adopted this resolution “and we have appraised the KZNA legal team to this effect in the matter brought by Phuma against Mr Dees Govender and KZNA. We hope sense will prevail”. - The Mercury


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