Row puts Comrades in jeopardy

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iol spt feb13 Comrades AFP With the 89th Comrades Marathon only days away, the Comrades Marathon Association made an important announcement. Photo: AFP

Kwazulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA) was slapped with a court order yesterday giving it only a few hours to convene its annual meeting amid warnings that if it didn’t, athletics in the province and even the Comrades Marathon could be in jeopardy.

The urgent application, which came before acting Judge Alex Jeffrey in the Durban High Court yesterday, was brought by Steve Mkasi, an attorney and the manager of the Phuma KZN Athletics Club in Pietermaritzburg.

In terms of the order, KZNA and its acting general manager, Dees Govender, were to notify all members by 4pm yesterday that an annual meeting was to be held on March 29.

If the notices were not sent out, Phuma was authorised to do so on behalf of KZNA.

In his affidavit, Mkasi warned of the dire consequences should the meeting not be held in terms of KZNA’s constitution, which required that it be held by the end of March, with 45 days’ notice to members.

“It will be unable to approve its financial statements and a budget for 2014, meaning it will have to cancel all athletic activities until this is done,” he said.

“The harm to the members will be immense. Athletes will not be sent to national championships and the holding of events such as the Comrades Marathon will be placed in jeopardy.”

Last night, Govender issued the meeting notice “so as not to be in contempt of court”, but said: “We believe the holding of the annual meeting is premature and the application is ill conceived and without merit.”

Govender said the application would be opposed and, if the order was discharged, the meeting would be cancelled.

Organised athletics in South Africa has been embroiled in infighting, with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee suspending the board of Athletics South Africa in June. The suspension was lifted at the end of last month.

In November, Athletics South Africa suspended the boards of a number of provincial athletics bodies, including KZNA, accusing them of a bid to take over the national body by attempting to hold a meeting.

The bodies went to the Johannesburg High Court and secured an interim interdict declaring their suspension invalid.

According to Mkasi this was done without the knowledge of the members of KZNA and, “for reasons best known to them”, the bodies did not ask that the order lifting the suspension take immediate effect.

They did not ensure that the matter was set down, with the result that it would be back in court at the end of next month.

Mkasi said this meant the board remained suspended, but that it was “ignoring this” and “misleading people”.

“They are creating uncertainty in the province and hindering the smooth running of the affairs of KZNA,” he said.

He said he had attempted to get Govender to send out the meeting notice, “but he is taking instructions from the (suspended) executive committee”.

Apart from complying with the constitution, it was necessary to hold the meeting to deal with a number of urgent issues, including the legitimacy of the committee and financial matters.

“For example, it has come to the attention of members that more than R160 000 was spent on an abortive disciplinary hearing against an office-bearer,” Mkasi said.

“The matter was dropped because the charges were defective, but not before huge legal bills were incurred.

“The members need to be informed and to decide whether to instruct the committee to stop incurring legal bills.”

The matter will be back in court on February 26.


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