Confidential documents leaked to amaBhungane reveal the government’s intense anger over the launch of a “legacy project” of the 2022 Commonwealth Games by a little-known company apparently championed by controversial sports administrator Gideon Sam.
Also involved in the launch and media briefing was TNA Media, which is owned by the politically connected Gupta family.
The 22nd edition of the games was awarded to the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) on September 2 this year in Auckland, New Zealand. The games will take place in Durban in July 2022, to coincide with the late Nelson Mandela’s birthday.
Leaked documents show that on the eve of the award, Sam – Sascoc’s president – urged the Sascoc board to approve the establishment of a new company as a 50-50 partner in a games legacy project to promote youth entrepreneurship.
The company, Nation of Champ-ions, was registered a week later.
“As government leaders tasked to deliver these games, our views have been disregarded”
A company profile seen by amaBhungane refers to the role of Sam’s daughter, Monalisa Sam, in establishing initial contact between her father and Nation of Champions’s chief executive, Madoda Khuzwayo.
But the planned launch of Nation of Champions, at a sponsored TNA breakfast televised on September 23, clearly infuriated national sports director general Alec Moemi.
In a letter the day before the launch, Moemi complained to Tubby Reddy – a member of Sascoc’s board and head of the Durban 2022 bid committee – that the national and KwaZulu-Natal governments had been sidelined.
“It was therefore not only shocking and embarrassing when we learnt through the media and an invitation from TNA that there was a scheduled media briefing to … launch the Durban 2022 Commonwealth Games Legacy issues,” Moemi said. “What is saddening is that neither the department nor any of the other intergovernmental stakeholders who sit on the bid committee seem to have been consulted … It is honestly incomprehensible why, just less than 15 days after returning together from Auckland, other key stakeholders would now be left out.”
The furious reaction of the KwaZulu-Natal sports and recreation head, Rohini Naidoo, is borne out by an email she sent to Sascoc, apparently while watching the launch on TV.
“Clearly, as government leaders tasked with the responsibility of delivering these Games, our views have been totally disregarded,” she fumed. “I am requesting an urgent meeting at which Sascoc must be called to account. It is really unfortunate when a stakeholder breaks the trust.
“Where does this place us in [the estimation of] the public, who are watching us closely, which they should, as it is their taxes that are funding the games?”
Despite Moemi’s call for the launch to be cancelled, it went ahead on September 23, broadcast by the SABC with Peter Ndoro as anchor.
However, it appears that the company succumbed to pressure not to use the Durban 2022 logo.
“Stakeholders and strategic partnerships”
Minutes of a September 18 meeting, attended by Reddy and Khuzwayo, note that the use of the logo breaches Commonwealth Games’ rules and that it “will be removed from all marketing material before the launch …”
Moemi’s letter also mentions that in its invitation TNA “implored the department to purchase a 10-seater table at a value of R7 920.30”. The company relies on sponsorship of its breakfast events by state bodies.
The Nation of Champions’s company profile lists TNA in a category of “stakeholders and strategic partnerships”, but whether its role in the legacy project goes beyond the “breakfast discussion” is unclear.
Moemi could not be contacted, while Naidoo said she would not comment on an “internal” issue.
Sam’s assistant said he was in a meeting and referred all queries to Khuzwayo. Reddy’s assistant said “he is not feeling well” and could not respond to emailed queries until after the Mail & Guardian’s deadline.
Gupta spokesperson Gary Naidoo was sent questions but had not responded by the time of printing.
“A platform for youth entrepreneurship skills”
According to the company profile, Nation of Champions aims to connect youth across South Africa and the other 70 Commonwealth states, as well as serving “as a platform for youth entrepreneurship skills and development and procurement opportunities”.
AmaBhungane was leaked minutes of the Sascoc meeting in Auckland on September 1, highlighting Sam’s role in promoting Nation of Champions.
“A new company is to be set up urgently and the president [Sam] needed approval from those present. [The] new company needed four directors from Sascoc,” the minutes say.
“[The] company will be seated outside Sascoc and not cost Sascoc a single cent in funds. Sascoc will monitor the functionality of the company and enjoy a 50% return of dividends.
“Mark Alexander [chairperson of the 2020 Games bid committee] stated that the president must be one of the four [directors], as he has been managing this up to the present moment.”
Lack of communication
Sam also engaged an obscure company – Open Tenders, cofounded by Khuzwayo – on “the usage of social media and technology” in the legacy project. Khuzwayo confirmed the idea was that Open Tenders serve as a business social networking platform, and supply services such as security and hosting during the Games.
Asked about Moemi’s letter, he said he had no knowledge of it and did not know who Moemi was, and that Sascoc had not allocated funds to Nation of Champions.
Khuzwayo said Nation of Champions would be funded through advertising and sponsorship. He said if there were problems regarding Nation of Champions’s launch, they had resulted from a lack of communication between the Durban local organising committee and the department.
Questioned about Monalisa Sam’s role, Khuzwayo said her only involvement was to suggest the Nation of Champions’s team should meet her father.
Gideon Sam was at the centre of a controversy in 2012 when amaBhungane reported that Cape Town advocate Norman Arendse alleged he was offered an “open chequebook” bribe by an individual claiming to represent a bidder in a R7-billion grants tender.
AmaBhungane established that, in a letter, Arendse named Sam as the individual concerned.
Sam denied the allegation, saying he was a sports administrator who knew nothing about social grants.
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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.