Is ASA’s poor track record doomed to persist with a tarnished leader?

Many had hoped this weekend’s Athletics South Africa board elections would signal a positive and fresh start for the administration of the sport in the country, but doubt has already been cast over the process.

In November last year, 15 provincial structures unanimously voted to remove ASA president James Evans and elected a seven-member interim board. But the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) did not recognise the board and in February this year it sent Cheikh Thiare, the director of its president’s executive office, to the country to steady the boat.

Thiare’s visit culminated in the formation of an ad hoc committee that was given a mandate to stabilise ASA and set up new general elections.

But though the committee said in a recent media statement that everything is in place to ensure a fair, democratic vote at Olympic House, various individuals – speaking to the Mail & Guardian on condition of anonymity – have expressed their concerns about the election.

One of the issues raised is the ad hoc committee’s final list of nominees for the position of president. Evans is among those in contention for the post, as is former KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA) president Aleck Skhosana, current KZNA president Sello Mokoena and Dr Harold Adams, the president of Boland Athletics.

Adams was one of the pivotal players in the Caster Semenya saga, and KZNA was declared bankrupt under Skhosana. The latter was also at the centre of fraud, corruption and mismanagement allegations, which crippled athletics in the province.

“Most of the candidates have a tarnished history, which is disappointing,” said an athlete who is a former member of the KZNA executive. “ASA needs a clean leadership, not leaders who are attached to a bad history. What kind of message are we sending out when there is suspicion and questions about people’s pasts and we have put these people forward again?”

Daan du Toit, the chairperson of the ASA ad hoc committee, told the M&G that the presidential nominations that were submitted and accepted by the committee “met the requirements of the ASA constitution and the nomination process”.

Adams said that he believed that certain members of the athletics fraternity “who had failed the organisation” are embarking on a smear campaign. “Nothing was proven about us. If you look at the M&G archives dating back to the Caster Semenya [controversy], you will see that I came out of that very well,” he said. “Aleck, too, has every right to stand for president; nothing was proven about him. He runs the sports academy in KZN, about which there is very positive feedback.”

Kevin Bradfield of Savages Athletics Club, a former member of the KZNA executive, questioned the fairness of the nomination procedure that has culminated in a final list of nominees for 10 executive positions.

Not ‘inclusive and consultative’ “Both the IAAF and the ad hoc committee had stated that this should be an inclusive and consultative process. But clubs in KZN never received the circulars from the ASA ad hoc committee,” he alleged. “The only document we received was a circular that informed us who had been nominated. I would have expected an open forum with at least [a] communiqué stating that there was a nomination process and we could submit our nominations.”

But Mokoena, the president of KZNA, said that the province had “followed and complied strictly with both the provincial constitution and all ASA mandates”.

“I can assure you that KZNA has followed both the KZNA constitution and the resolution of the KZNA annual general meeting [AGM] of April 12 2014, which represented all 241 clubs and 14 000 registered athletes in the province, was constitutionally assembled and had the required quorum with regard to the 2014 ASA nominations and proposed ASA board elections. The AGM proceedings are on record and transcripts are available too,” he said.

Allen Barnes, who features on the list of nominees for additional members, said that all Western Cape clubs had been invited to submit nominations. “One club nominated James Evans for a number of positions. The Western Province Athletics [WPA] board then decided to submit all nominations received from clubs to ASA,” he said.

“Provinces were not asked to endorse a nominee but only confirm that the person is in good standing. So WPA at no stage endorsed his nomination.”

Barnes said: “These individuals, because of their length of service to athletics, are popular among the electorate. Our structures – both national and provincial – elect individuals on popularity, not skills. That is not to say that these individuals don’t have skills, but this is not the basis on which they are elected.”

He said that the ASA constitution and provincial structures needed to be redeveloped so that skills sets are a determining factor.

“These are best practice globally. We need a businesslike model approach. We are going to require skilled business people to take the sport into the new year and to compete with other sporting codes for very scarce and limited financial resources.”

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