JOHANNESBURG – Sascoc staff member Desiree Vardhan described a toxic environment at the Olympic body under the leadership of disgraced former chief executive Tubby Reddy.
Vardhan was giving evidence on the first day of the Zulman committee of inquiry into governance matters at the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) at Ellis Park on Monday.
The committee set up by Sports Minister Thulas Nxesi saw nine evidence leaders from various sporting codes appear in front of the committee led by retired Judge Ralph Zulman‚ veteran cricket administrator Dr Ali Bacher and labour law expert Shamima Gaibie.
The inquiry will also look into what led to Reddy, chief financial officer Vinesh Maharaj and senior manager Jean Kelly’s dismissal after they were found guilty of various misconduct and maladministration charges during a disciplinary hearing in December last year.
Vardhan, who heads the coaching department at Sascoc, said she had worked under a “threatening environment” before Reddy and two other senior staff members were sacked this year.
When Zulman asked Vardhan whether she believed Sascoc was dysfunctional – as was revealed during other submissions – she was emphatic in her response.
“Sport has been dysfunctional because of the three dismissed officials in particular,” Vardhan said.
“There is a command and control environment at Sascoc, so we have a very strict protocol with regards to the reporting structures. It would be helpful for the committee to have a perspective from every staff member that has been muzzled over the years.”
Evidence given on the first day of the ministerial committee ranged from issues with the awarding of national colours to federations complaining about not receiving recognition from Sascoc.
The woman who accused Reddy of sexual harassment was given an opportunity to give evidence in-camera due to the sensitivity of her submissions.
Laraine Lane, a former board member of Athletics South Africa (ASA), raised a few issues where she alleged both Sascoc president Gideon Sam and second vice-president Hajera Kajee were guilty of conflict of interest with service providers.
The issue of the sacked trio came into the spotlight after the lunch break when Volleyball SA (VSA) vice-president Kriba Reddy made his submission.
Reddy, who is not related to the former chief executive, clearly backed the three sacked Sascoc employees, questioning the way the umbrella body conducted the disciplinary process.
Tubby Reddy and Maharaj have strong links with VSA, with the former occupying the position of honorary president and the latter involved with the sport as its treasurer.
In his submission, Kriba Reddy questioned the accumulated legal costs of the disciplinary process against the trio, which Sascoc told parliament in October 2017 to have ballooned to R2.9 million.
Kriba Reddy challenged that the estimates were closer to R6 million, which he based on media reports that stemmed from an open letter sent by the former CEO.
“In my submission, we make mention that volleyball has been implicated in it, and the former CEO of Sascoc was the former president of Volleyball SA and the former CFO of Sascoc is the current financial person of Volleyball SA,” Kriba Reddy said.
One of the submissions, which related more to an issue with one of the federations instead of Sascoc, prompted Zulman to remind the evidence leader of the purpose of the inquiry.
“If I complain about the post office and I go to the revenue service, they will say to me ‘We don’t deal with the post office, go directly to them,” Zulman said.
The committee will continue on Thursday, where acting Sascoc chief executive Patience Shikwambana is expected to make an appearance.