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‘Greed and corruption’ at ASA

A report on the disciplinary inquiry into former Athletics South Africa (ASA) president Leonard Chuene has delivered a devastating verdict on his handling of both the Caster Semenya saga and the organisation’s ailing finances, the Mail & Guardian can reveal.

The M&G has seen the full report, which was written by panel chairperson and former Cricket South Africa president Norman Arendse after an examination of cumulative charges of dishonesty, fraud and misconduct against Chuene, former ASA vice-president Kakata Maponyane and former director Simon Dlamini.

The panel found the three guilty of the majority of the charges, and it is understood the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee has referred the findings to the National Prosecuting Authority for investigation.

According to Arendse, a guilty finding “on one or more or all of these charges” would justify their exclusion from the ASA.

“The charges are grave and a sad indictment of the administration of athletics in our country during the tenure of [Chuene, Maponyane and Dlamini],” Arendse wrote.

“The charges, supported by evidence adduced at the hearing, refer to rampant abuse of ASA resources, an abuse of power and authority, self-aggrandisement, greed and,

quite frankly, corruption.”

He said the three executives “failed hopelessly” to comply with their fiduciary duties.

“Instead of protecting the ASA and its assets, it was exposed to unnecessary risk, which, over time, resulted in a stripping of the assets of ASA.”

Based on the evidence presented at a hearing, which Chuene, Maponyane and Dlamini “failed and refused” to attend, the panel’s findings included the following:

  • Maponyane and Dlamini approved ASA loans to Chuene worth R183 451 between 2006 and 2009, and the three were party to loans approved to general manager Molatelo Malelopo and others in contravention of ASA rules. Chuene’s loans were not disclosed in ASA’s financial statements.
  • In spite of the ASA’s dire financial circumstance, the three approved an increase in Chuene’s salary from R19 067 to R35 000 a month.

    They also approved an honorarium increase to board members from R947 to R5000 a meeting they attended.

    A performance bonus was approved for Chuene worth R150 000 in 2007, as well as other staff members in the absence of performance assessments.

    Chuene abused his ASA credit card, and he bought a Mercedes-Benz from the ASA for R1, but failing to transfer the vehicle to his name, leaving the ASA to maintain it and pay insurance premiums.

  • Chuene had an intimate relationship with an ASA employee and R90 000 was paid to Chuene’s previous assistant, Thabile Mokoatjana, “to ensure that she would remain silent” about her knowledge about this. Dlamini was aware of this, Arendse wrote.
  • All of this happened at a time when the ASA’s finances were “deteriorating fast”. It moved from a positive bank balance of R500 000 in 2005 to being in the red to an amount of more than R7-million in 2008.

    And, at the time of the disciplinary hearing, Cheune still owed the ASA about R80 000 in loan repayments.

  • On the Semenya saga, Chuene first agreed with South African Olympic team doctor Harold Adams to withdraw Semenya from the 2009 Berlin event, but reversed his decision, insisting she take part, before lying about his knowledge about the sex tests performed by the ASA before the event.
  • The issue of Semenya’s sex was first publicised by ASA board member Arnaud Malherbe, who blogged on August 3 2009: ‘Semenya is an interesting revelation. [She] was born as a hermaphrodite and, through a series of tests, has been classified as female.”

    Arendse reported this was “false, unsubstantiated and incorrect information”.

Contacted yesterday, Arendse said he could not comment beyond the report.

Well-placed sources say Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has been briefed on the report and has accepted the findings.

It is understood Malherbe will be served with a notice of suspension and will have to appear before a disciplinary committee.

Malherbe told the M&G he could not comment on the matter.

Chuene and attorney Mncedisi Ndlovu could not be reached for comment.

This article was produced by amaBhungane, investigators of the M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a nonprofit initiative to enhance capacity for investigative journalism in the public interest. www.amabhungane.co.za.

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Sally Evans
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