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SA Rugby’s Mark Alexander slams WP boss Zelt Marais for spreading ’misinformation’

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Published Mar 13, 2022

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Cape Town - In a letter sent to members of the clubs, SA Rugby confirmed that they will formally charge suspended Western Province Rugby Union president Zelt Marais.

Last year, Western Province was placed under administration. As part of the administrative takeover, former SA Rugby CEO Rian Oberholzer was appointed as administrator to oversee the union’s affairs.

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Despite this, Marais has continued to be vocal on matters pertaining to the union.

Earlier this week, he sent out a letter in which he stated that the governing body are “conveniently forgetting” about SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux financial legal matter with the University of Stellenbosch.

"SARU is not capable of being the custodian of rugby in this country and at present the purported custodian of the affairs of the WPRFU," Marais wrote.

In the letter sent out by Mark Alexander, the SA Rugby president said that they will be charging Marais for bringing the game into disrepute.

"Unfortunately, the suspended ex-president continues to spread misinformation and pipe dreams based on unverified financial claims or any kind of due diligence, compounded by the illegitimate use of digital letterheads," Alexander wrote.

Western Province Rugby Football Union president Zelt Marias. Picture: Supplied

Full letter from Mark Alexander to WPRFU members:

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Dear members of the WPRFU,

When the Executive Council of SA Rugby reluctantly decided in October last year that we could no longer stand by and watch such a cornerstone union of our federation be so thoroughly mismanaged that it was in imminent danger of financial collapse, we determined that one of the first priorities was to take the 'noise out of the machine'.

The frequent reports of infighting among leadership, of signed and then failed property deals and then imminent and then failed equity deals and of last-minute, multi-million-rand new deals were disastrous for the Union’s credibility. Our attempt to form a joint steering committee to assist the incumbent leadership to plan their way back to a sustainable future also failed through lack of transparency, misinformation, and an unwillingness on your leadership to fully engage.

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At that time SA Rugby was lambasted privately and publicly for not taking your union into administration to right what was increasingly an obviously sinking ship.

When that step was finally taken with a sinking heart, it was a priority for us to take your union out of the news for its administrative failings so that it could resume its place in the news for rugby reasons. At our first meeting with the staff, we advised that the main responsibility of the administrator was to focus on untangling the various reported deals and focus on turning the union around rather than spending time on the past.

From long experience the only way to do that is to quietly get on with the job and limit information sharing as it all too inevitably ends up in the public domain and we are back to square one. Our apologies if you have felt under-informed; it was a decision taken in the interests of the union.

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However, we now find your province has once again been dragged back into the news for "administrative reasons”, ironically by someone who regularly complained about individuals using the media for their own personal ends. Unfortunately, the suspended ex-President continues to spread misinformation and pipe dreams based on unverified financial claims or any kind of due diligence, compounded by the illegitimate use of digital letterheads.

Although WPRFU and its professional teams are now in a much better shape than they were six months ago, the name of your province is once again being dragged into disrepute.

It is not our way to play games in the media and respond to every hare-brained allegation that anyone cares to make, but on this occasion, we believe the clubs and supporters of Western Province need certain clarifications and updates in relation to the administration of the Union; the lies, deception and misinformation needed public comment.

We will address any other issues at the meeting on 29 March 2022, (to which you were invited on Thursday) but, here in brief, is a status update on the progress of the administration:

- WPRFU faced four court proceedings at the time of the appointment of the administrator. As of today, two have been settled; one is being held in abeyance and one is subject to a cost order to be finalised.

- Various agreements, undertakings, or letters of intent with three companies for the sale of WPRFU properties were allegedly in existence. The only recognised agreement was the bondholders (Flyt), with whom agreement has been reached for the sealed bidding process for the Newlands Stadium to proceed.

- The R9,4m SARS liability that the administrator inherited on appointment has been paid.

- A revised agreement for the rental of the DHL Stadium is in negotiation and progressing well.

- And contract extensions have been agreed with earmarked players and ongoing negotiations to secure high-profile signings of overseas-based players are in train.

We regard these developments as significant progress for the regularisation of Western Province’s affairs, and it is our hope that the necessity of administration will run its course as soon as possible.

That is what has actually happened but now let’s turn to what has been recently claimed. And I trust that the fevered allegations and claims of 'illegality' of the appointment of an administrator hold little sway in your wise counsels.

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The requirements of the SARU Constitution to invoke clause 29 were carefully observed and on which we sought legal opinion before considering its final application. The clause is quite wide-ranging and allows for the 'suspension from office of their elected and/or appointed officials, and the appointment by SARU of administrators, who shall assume all decision-making powers of the unions at both governance and operational levels.

Your then president even concurred at the time that it was 'probably a good idea'.

And for several months the ship has been righting itself. That process is far from complete and there are major decisions to be taken and no doubt complex negotiations to be concluded.

But we do not need the renewal of noise in the machine.

We will therefore be charging your suspended president, Mr Zelt Marais under the SARU Code of Conduct for bringing the game into disrepute. His rhetoric is just a perplexing and destabilising attempt to claim a role from which he was constitutionally suspended and which he cannot exercise.

Let me finish by saying that I understand your concern about the future of your union but please understand that what may appear to be silence from the side of the administrator has purely been to create an environment in which the team can perform, and the union can be returned to duly elected officials as soon as possible. The future of Western Province is bright, please bear with us.

Best wishes,

President South African Rugby Union

@WynonaLouw

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