Gideon Sam and Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation Gert Oosthuizen with officials from the Australian High Commission. Photo: Aubrey KgakatsiBackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Sascoc president Gideon Sam has been accused of highly improper, grossly irregular and negligent behaviour to shelter a friend by ignoring a report into a member federation.

This came to light on the second day of the ministerial inquiry into governance issues at the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) on Thursday. 

During his submissions, lawyer David Becker alleged that Sascoc and Sam ignored damning findings in a report into the SA Sports and Fitness Federation (Sasaff) that was released two years ago. An inquiry initiated by Sascoc and led by Advocate Alex Pullinger in 2013 had found Sasaff to be guilty of intimidation of minors, discriminatory conduct, manipulation of scoring and maladministration in the award of Proteas colours.

Sasaff president Keith Barends was implicated, with the Pullinger Report finding “that the relationship between the national and provincial federations and the overlap between the office-bearers to be ‘prima facie corrupt’.”

Becker said his clients Dr George van Rensburg and Lyn Earley – a former Sasaff office-bearer – submitted that the failure to properly address the report was because of Sam’s personal friendship with Barends.

“According to a source within Sascoc who has communicated with the complainants in confidence, Sam advised in a meeting that, despite the contents of the Pullinger Report, Sascoc would not be taking any steps against Sasaff,” Becker said. “The same source has confirmed to the complainants that Sam elected to deal with the matter personally, and that it was not dealt with by the board of Sascoc.”

Becker said Sascoc neglected their duties by not dealing with the report, while they had not confirmed over a period of three years whether they had taken their finding into consideration. 

Meanwhile, South African athletes that are on Sascoc’s funding programme may have to wait for the umbrella body to lift a contractual muzzle if they want to make submissions at the ministerial inquiry.

Sascoc high-performance manager Ezera Shabangu made submissions on the challenges her department faced in lifting the standards of South African teams to the multi-coded sporting events. Shabangu explained the mechanisms of the Operation Excellence (Opex) programme, which prompted labour law expert Shamima Gaibie to ask about athletes giving evidence to the committee.

“In your contract with the athletes, I assume there are clauses in that contract that indicate that they can’t talk negatively about Sascoc, is that correct?” Gaibie asked. “Would you view an athlete who had something to say about Sascoc operations and is bound by that type of clause, and who wants to talk to us, as contravening as contravening that provision in the contract?”

Shabangu said although it would be in contravention of the clause in their contract, some athletes have spoken negatively about Sascoc in public and managed to stay on Opex. 

“It would be in contravention. However, we’ve had athletes that have gone to the media and spoken against us, saying we haven’t paid on time and they are not happy with X, Y, Z. We haven’t penalised those athletes, we actually take the matter back to the federation because it is a tripartite contract between Sascoc, the athlete and the national federation.

“We’ve had meetings with some of those athletes that have raised certain objections, and those athletes are still on the Opex programme.”

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Olympic javelin silver medallist Sunette Viljoen lashed out at Sascoc in the build-up to the 2016 Rio Games and shortly afterwards. 

“I have broken ties with them because they have been a stumbling block more than anything else,” Viljoen said before the quadrennial showpiece. “I am receiving no financial support from them at the moment, and I am tired of begging and pleading.”

She accused the Olympic body of dragging their feet to reimburse her, while she also lashed out for the apparent lack of support for rising talent.

“Just to confirm: I am NOT speaking out only for myself, but for the hundreds of other talented athletes who never get a cent of support,” Viljoen said in a post on Twitter after the Games.

“Last tweet. I am always the only athlete speaking out, and that does not help our cause. I cannot fight alone anymore. Or perhaps I am the only athlete with bad experiences with sports administration. Who knows. But I doubt it.” 

Shabangu confirmed on Thursday that Viljoen was still on Opex despite the differences between her and Sascoc.


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