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Sascoc defies Parliament

Sascoc, South Africa’s Olympic governing body, has held its own against intense pressure from parliamentary sports committee chairperson Butana Komphela to appear before Parliament and is pressing ahead with the disciplinary hearing against Athletics South Africa (ASA) boss Leonard Chuene and his co-accused.

Mubarak Mohamed, a Sascoc board member, told the Mail & Guardian that the discredited athletics boss and “those accused of embarrassing the girl [Caster Semenya] and South Africa” would face a disciplinary committee hearing on Friday.

Chuene, the ASA board and ASA general manager Molatelo Malehopo are among the sport’s officials that Sascoc suspended in November, pending an investigation into the Semenya gender-test furore.

The Semenya debacle still refuses to die 10 months after being broken by the M&G. Mohamed revealed that until late on Thursday some of the accused were seeking a court interdict to stop the hearing from proceeding, whereas Sascoc’s lawyers were equally busy fighting them. He refused to say which of those summoned did not want the hearing to go ahead.

Sport and Recreation Minister Mkhenkesi Stofile briefed the parliamentary sport portfolio committee, chaired by Komphela early this week, on the results of a damning report into the ASA’s finances and its handling of the Semenya affair. He told MPs on Tuesday that Chuene had committed “gross misconduct” when he allowed Semenya to run the 800m at last year’s world championships held in Berlin.

“They [the medical team] advised that this lady should not run, because it was going to create a psychological problem for her,” said Stofile. The minister described Chuene’s actions as “a rude invasion of the privacy of the young woman and a violation of her human rights”.

According to the forensic report, the athletics boss refused advice from South Africa team doctor Harold Adams to pull the athlete out of the race. As a result, shortly after her victory, the International Association of Athletics Federations ordered that gender tests be carried out on the athlete before she could be allowed to race again. Semenya could not compete for 11 months after becoming world champion because of the dispute over her gender.

“We want to know why it happened, why professional medical advice was ignored,” said Mohamed.

Komphela expressed anger when Sascoc failed to appear before his committee on Tuesday.

“It was sheer arrogance not to come,” he said. “We will take a resolution to the Speaker to summon Sascoc here, and we are sober. This should trigger warrants for arrest if it fails to deal with the matter.”

Komphela said Sascoc was undermining Parliament by failing to attend. “Its issue is a forensic audit, but our issue is what led to the forensic audit and that is the debacle of Caster Semenya,” he said.

“We will see at the end of the day who is going to be the winner and who the loser on this issue.”

‘We will respect the summons’
Reacting to the threat of warrants of arrest, Mohamed acknowledged that Parliament had the power to summon anybody, including Sascoc, to appear before it. “We will respect the summons because it has the backing of the law of the land. But it will not take away the fact that Sascoc will have little to say while the matter is on trial,” he said.

Mohamed said Komphela was aware that they would not attend the parliamentary meeting. “We wrote a letter to him to explain that we wanted to come to Parliament with a full report. Komphela knows about the disciplinary hearing this Friday. What is so urgent that we must go to Parliament on a Tuesday when the hearing is on Friday?” said Mohamed.

He said that Sascoc was neither “arrogant” nor “unwilling” to appear before Parliament. “The forensic report has revealed that the ASA’s finances are not in order and auditors have referred the matter to the legal committee, which in turn has said there has to be charges. Answering to Parliament while the matter is sub judice would be improper for Sascoc.”

Komphela has in the past been among the leading political figures who have spoken in support of the embattled Chuene.

Stofile further told Parliament that allegations raised in the report against the ASA board included mismanaging assets of the ASA with respect to payments to individuals, per diems and allowances, tax evasion and non-compliance with the Companies Act.” Those are the things that must be tested in court,” said the minister.

Mohamed said Sascoc would appear before Parliament after getting the verdict of the disciplinary hearing and give a full account of the Semenya saga and the ASA’s financial position.

However, Stofile said he had since ordered Sascoc to respect Parliament and “talk to them face to face”. He also expressed satisfaction with the report. “What is only missing is Leonard’s side of the story which should come out in the hearing.”

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Glynnis Underhill
Glynnis Underhill has been in journalism for more years than she cares to remember. She loves a good story as much now as she did when she first started. The only difference is today she hopes she is giving something back to the country.

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