Athletics boss wins latest battle

Leonard Chuene will have the last laugh on Sunday over his number-one enemy, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), when he is re-elected as president of Athletics South Africa (ASA). No one is standing against him.

In the run-up to the elections, Chuene has been under pressure to resign following reports that he was having an affair with his personal assistant, Humile Bogatsu, and that he had increased her salary from R5 000 to R15 000. The Sunday Times also reported that he was being investigated for mismanaging ASA’s finances and that he had been filmed dancing with his assistant.

Chuene, who has been re-elected twice since first becoming president of ASA in 1996, has refused to step down. He is convinced that Sascoc is out to get him because he has criticised the confederation’s transformation record.

He told the Mail & Guardian that his troubles started last November when he made a presentation to Parliament’s portfolio committee on sport and recreation, and accused Sascoc of failing to establish a national academy for talent development. He also told the committee that there was a lack of transformation within Sascoc and called the confederation a “monster” created by the national sports federations.

He told the committee: “Sascoc is nothing but former Nocsa [National Olympic Committee of South Africa] wearing a disguise. All the elected members on the Sascoc board are former members of the Nocsa board. These board members will argue that they were elected democratically, but they know the truth.

“ASA had continual run-ins with the board of Nocsa … These battles were sparked at any given time by one or more interferences in national federations, favouritism, cronyism, lack of democracy and clique mentality.”

Chuene’s utterances did not go down well with Sascoc, which threatened to charge him with bringing it into disrepute.

“Sascoc has short-sightedly decided to single me out and summon me to a disciplinary hearing. Sascoc will engage top-qualified legal people … and in the process waste a lot of money, which they could have spent on supporting athletes,” Chuene said.

He told the M&G that the allegations were timed to embarrass him before the association’s elections. “Sascoc knew that the elections were around the corner, so they threw everything they could at me … they thought that government would force me to step down. When some of us try to stimulate robust debate on important issues such as transformation and development we are seen as … troublemakers,” said Chuene.

Responding to the allegations against him, Chuene said: “I do not have an affair with my personal assistant and if there were financial mismanagement within the federation, we wouldn’t have released our financial statements to all our provinces. As for me dancing with my assistant, I have asked [the Sunday Times to release] the footage because I had an ankle injury [at the time] and couldn’t walk properly so it was impossible for me to dance.”

At a special meeting in Stellenbosch last month, ASA’s 17 provinces and top athletes, including Khotso Mokoena, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and Geraldine Pillay, passed a vote of confidence in Chuene as leader.

Chuene said: “If people that I lead do not have a problem with me then I shouldn’t worry about other people … Journalists are promised trips to the Olympics if they write negative stories about me.”

He said Sascoc has turned a blind eye to Basketball South Africa (BSA), whose president, Vusi Mgobhozi, has been accused of running the federation like his own fiefdom. Chuene said BSA has not called a formal meeting since its elections in 2006. Mgobhozi is also an executive member of Sascoc.

“Swimming and athletics are the only two federations that consistently win medals for the country. There are many things that Sascoc needs to look at before attacking us,” said Chuene.

Chuene called on the parliamentary committee urgently to audit Sascoc. “I know that this will add more charges to the charge sheet, but let it be—life goes on.”

In response, Sascoc president Moss Mashishi said: “It is absolute nonsense that we are victimising Chuene. We are charging him for bringing the federation into disrepute and not only by utterances he made in Parliament but also [by comments] to the media. There are platforms on which he could have raised the issues that he raised.”

Mashishi acknowledged that the federation has not transformed enough. “Transformation is one of the biggest issues that we are faced with. But again people who complain about transformation have voted for people who serve in the board of Sascoc.

“In the November 2004 elections Chuene stood for all Sascoc’s top positions and he lost … We are going to deal with him as an individual for his lack of discipline. We will give him a formal charge sheet with all the charges.”

Mashishi said he received a formal complain against Mgobhozi a week ago from Gauteng Basketball. “We are also going to look into the matter … and we’ll make a decision on what steps to take.”

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