FILE - Western Province boss Zelt Marais.
FILE - Western Province boss Zelt Marais.

WP board resigns due to ’increased hostility’ from union president Zelt Marais

By Wynona Louw Time of article published Oct 9, 2021

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Cape Town – The remaining independent directors of the board of Western Province Professional Rugby have announced their resignation after “increased hostility” from Western Province Rugby Football Union president Zelt Marais.

Independent directors Janine Myburgh, Melene Rossouw, Solly Moeng and Sabelo Mzanywa have all walked away, highlighting a “break of trust” between the board and Marais.

This comes after Marais earlier this week suspended four more members of the executive committee. Reuben Riffel, Ronald Bantom, Anele Zita and Quinton van Rooyen were all handed suspensions, joining Mario Williams and Junaid Moerat as currently suspended executives as Marais continues to remove those who oppose him. Only Moneeb Levy and Nadeema Khan – supporters of Marais – remain on the exco.

In the letter, the independent directors state that the suspension of the exco members motivated their resignations, while adding that Marais’ “dictatorial” style has caused the deterioration of the Western Province Rugby.

“Needless to say, this decision has not been an easy one to come to, but it has been a necessary one, nevertheless, considering our sacrosanct, collective, fiduciary responsibility, and given the break of trust between you and us. No one who has been closely following the developments within Western Province Rugby over the past year can deny that the deteriorated environment within the management of Western Province Rugby has been caused by your secretive, dictatorial, and relentlessly conspiratorial management style and conduct overtime.”

Despite the dire financial state of the union, Marais has continued to oppose the Saru-recommended Staytus deal. The deal would include a settlement arrangement with Flyt – whom will only return the unions title deeds and stop all damages claims once they receive repayment of the R113M loan, interest at 22 percent and a compulsory dividend of R32M.

The full letter:

Dear Mr. Marais

This letter serves to notify you and what remains of the leadership of Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) of our collective decision to resign our positions as Independent Directors in the Board of the Western Province Professional Rugby (Pty) Ltd (WPPR).

Needless to say, this decision has not been an easy one to come to, but it has been a necessary one, nevertheless, considering our sacrosanct, collective, fiduciary responsibility, and given the break of trust between you and us. No one who has been closely following the developments within Western Province Rugby over the past year can deny that the deteriorated environment within the management of Western Province Rugby has been caused by your secretive, dictatorial, and relentlessly conspiratorial management style and conduct overtime.

Your recent actions to completely disregard existing management structures at WPRFU and to centralize all decision-making authority in your hands have come after a long series of actions by you to undermine the good work we have tried to do to help Western Province Rugby stand on its feet again, even despite the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns. Furthermore, many decisions you have single-handedly taken over time without consultation – or when you chose to undermine even collective decisions taken in your presence - have placed the material conditions of the Union (WPRFU) into jeopardy, having single-handedly moved them from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. Such decisions, utterances and actions have also, by extension – because the two organizations are linked - further impacted directly on the viability of the Company (WPPR) to stand on its feet again.

As a result, we, the Board, were forced to spend a lot more time, over the past year, on the backfoot pushing back against an avalanche of negative press due to your actions and careless public utterances than on the business of normal company activity oversight. This included having to protect you from what could have been sure lawsuits from several individuals who accused you of having sullied their reputations during a particular media interview.

Our numerous attempts to bridge the divides between WPRFU and third parties holding its properties as collateral against multimillion rand loans obtained from them, as well as potential investors in the Company, have not been appreciated by you. Instead, it is clear, going by your recent remarks, that you did not appreciate the fact that Chairman Rasool tried to mediate between you and the third parties, including key sponsors, who no longer wanted to deal directly with you, having long lost all confidence in your stakeholder engagement style.

Lastly, considering the recent suspension of five Executive Committee Members of WPPRU, four of whom served as Directors on the Board of WPPR, it has now become an impossibility for the Board to legitimately convene, discuss and consider appropriate solutions to the severe financial distress of the Company. The actions of the President of WPPRU have directly led to the incapacitation of the Board and its functioning as we are now unable to execute our legal and fiduciary duties towards the Company.

It is for these and many other reasons, Mr. Marais that we, the undersigned, are not able to continue exercising our fiduciary responsibility towards the Company (WPPR) as is legally required from us in a climate of increased hostility from you when it relates to the Board of WPPR.

We therefore have no alternative but to hereby tender our collective resignation from the Board of the Western Province Professional Rugby (Pty) Ltd.

Janine Myburgh: Independent Director

Melene Rossouw: Independent Director

Solly Moeng: Independent Director

Sabelo Mzanywa: Independent Director

@WynonaLouw

IOL Sport

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