Sascoc feud takes a new twist after president wins his case
Arbitrator dismisses claim by Ntambi Ravele that Barry Hendricks conspired to block her nomination
The three-month boardroom feud at the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) took a new twist on Wednesday when the organisation’s suspended president‚ Barry Hendricks‚ was cleared at arbitration.
Arbitrator Alec Freund dismissed the allegation by Ntambi Ravele‚ a Tennis SA board member‚ that he and Tennis SA president Gavin Crookes had conspired to block her nomination from the Sascoc elections.
He was unable to award any of the relief Ravele had asked for. This included that Hendricks and Crookes had acted unethically and unlawfully; that the handling of her nomination was irregular and that she be allowed a late entry; that Hendricks be disqualified from the election; and that he face disciplinary action at Sascoc.
The alleged conspiracy arose when‚ at a tennis function on February 1 and 2‚ Crookes asked Hendricks what he thought of the chances of Tennis SA’s two potential candidates, Ravele and Riad Davids, for the Sascoc election. Hendricks replied that he did not think they had a great chance.
Crookes conveyed Hendricks’s sentiment when he asked the Tennis SA board if it would support Ravele’s nomination to stand for the Sascoc presidency. The Tennis SA board rejected Ravele’s nomination‚ though later it supported the nomination of Davids to stand as an ordinary board member.
The Sascoc election had been scheduled for March 28 but was delayed by Covid-19.
Ravele complained to sports minister Nathi Mthethwa, who referred the matter to Sascoc and even wrote to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) referring to Hendricks’s alleged unethical behaviour and asking it to intervene to force the elections.
The Sascoc board sought a legal opinion from an advocate, who found Ravele had a case to take to arbitration. The executive responded by putting Hendricks on leave and threatened to haul him before a disciplinary hearing.
But the arbitrator found Hendricks “to be an impressive and credible witness” — apart from one “considerable” discrepancy where he gave two different accounts of his meeting with Crookes.
“On my assessment of his evidence‚ in particular‚ I am unpersuaded that the conspiracy suspected by the claimant [Ravele] occurred.”
The arbitrator also found similarly about Crookes. “I am not persuaded that‚ when he informed the Tennis SA board that [Hendricks] was not supportive of [Ravele] or Davids‚ his expectation would have been that this — in and of itself — would be regarded by board members as a compelling reason for Tennis SA not to nominate her.”
Crookes is awaiting the outcome of a separate probe into the matter set up by Tennis SA.
“At the time of the ... alleged conspiracy‚ the first and second respondents hardly knew each other.
“The conspiracy was allegedly concluded at a public event‚ when they were near others and where there was a possibility of being overheard. What is more‚ it is common cause that [Crookes] made no secret‚ particularly from [Ravele] ... of what [Hendricks] had said to him.
“None of this suggests a conspiracy.”
The arbitrator said Ravele had argued that Crookes had wanted to block her nomination in favour of Davids.
“I find this unpersuasive. It should be borne in mind that the second respondent solicited the views of the first respondent on both potential candidacies; received a negative opinion in respect of both of them; and conveyed that negative opinion both to the potential candidates and to the Tennis SA board.
“If [Crookes’s] motive for entering the conspiracy was to advance Davids’s candidacy‚ this was a strange way of doing so.”
The arbitrator‚ though making no finding in Ravele’s favour‚ was critical of Hendricks.
“This does not mean that I do not think there is some merit in the argument that [Hendricks] acted inappropriately in expressing the views he did to the second respondent.
“He was invited to‚ and was present at‚ the events in his capacity as [Sascoc’s] acting president.
“He was also intending to stand in the pending election as a candidate for president.
“In those circumstances I think it was inappropriate and an error of judgment on his part to accede to the request to express a view about the prospects of two potential Tennis SA candidates. He should have anticipated that his views might be passed to others; and he should have guarded against any conduct which could be construed — rightly or wrongly — as an improper attempt to exercise the influence arising from his office within Sascoc.
“But I am not persuaded that a case has been made out that‚ because of this conduct‚ he falls to be disqualified from standing as a candidate.
“Nor am I persuaded that a case has been made out that I should order that he be subjected to a disciplinary process.
“I have not been referred to any Sascoc rule which he contravened when he expressed his opinion. Not every error of judgment by an office-bearer disqualifies him from standing for election or entitles a person aggrieved thereby to require that the office-bearer concerned be subjected to a disciplinary inquiry.”
In a recent media statement the Sascoc board said it was prepared to go to court to nullify the arbitration.
The IOC has since intervened and appointed Sam Ramsamy to facilitate elections as soon as possible.
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