Morgan Piek – For years now political involvement in South African sports has been a key issue. For one to deny that would simply be naïve. The latest issue evolved yesterday when Mr Neels van Rooyen, the Deputy Chief whip of the ANC in the Free State openly accused The Free State Rugby Union and Mr Harold Verster of racism and mismanagement in a scathing attack on both Verster and the Union.
Van Rooyen accused both the Free State Rugby Union and Mr Verster and of being conservative racists. He accused the Union of doing nothing regarding transformation in the sport. He furthermore accused the Union of paying their workers’ salaries less than minimum wages. He accused the Union of paying the staff that have been there for five or more years less than R2000,00 per month. He said this is tantamount to slavery.
Van Rooysen said “I cannot sit back and watch Verster and the Union mismanage our beloved sport”.
Van Rooyen also went as far as to label the Free State Rugby Union as a disgrace to the Province.
In a media briefing called by the Free State Rugby Union at 12:00 this afternoon, a visibly shaken
Harold Verster had the following to say:
“I consider the allegations made by Mr Neels van Rooyen from a public platform and where a person doesn’t have the opportunity to defend himself, to be cowardly and unworthy of a public figure, especially considering that the statements and allegations made against the Free State Rugby Union and myself are not based on facts.
The election of Mr Lindsay Mould as President of the Free State Rugby Union was very democratic and the vice president, Mr Cedric Carson is a person of colour. The Executive Committee of the FRU consists of three persons of colour and three white.
Mr Mould was previously the head of the FRU’s Primary Schools Association. Mr Mould had to resign when he was elected as the President and his successor at the Primary School Association is now a person of colour.
I am currently the Managing Director of the Central and Free State Cheetahs and in both cases I report to the Board of which both Presidents are persons of colour. The Board of Directors are also greatly transformed.
I am in constant contact and have a special relationship with the Premier, Mr Ace Magashule and the MEC of Sport, Mr Dan Kgothule who supported me and recognize for transformation in rugby. I am not at all seen as stubborn or racist by either.
The allegations of separate year-end functions for black and white, and staff on the same staff photos are not true, it is totally unjustified and are devoid of the true facts. While I was President, transformation occurred and the Union now has a nearly equal representation.
In the Super Rugby competition the Cheetahs play with more transformation players than any other franchise. Van Rooyen’s wild accusations and attacks on the Free State Rugby Union are based on misinformation.
The accusations that the FRU terrain workers are exploited with unacceptable wages and that it borders of slavery are ridiculous and wrong. We have an agreement with SATAWU regarding wages and salaries. They shared their gratitude for our way of dealing with our people and our staff relations.
As far as Mr Neels van Rooyen’s threat to investigate Free State Rugby it is important for him to make sure that he’s got all the correct facts relating to transformation and other issues.”
Verster has welcomed any investigation called by Van Rooyen, as the Union has absolutely nothing to hide. Verster furthermore said their past two audits have both been clean and comply to all fully with the labour law. The Rugby Union have the backing of both the Free State Premier ad MEC for Sports.
This is not the first time the Union had to deal with wild allegations by Neels van Rooyen. In the past legal action was considered, but it was abandoned because van Rooyen as was protected by the Legislation. Verster said his legal representatives are looking into the matter as this has become a serious case of Defamation of Character.
One has to question the timing of Van Rooyens’ wild and outlandish remarks. This coming Friday a SARU General Council meeting will take place and the issue surrounding the Super Rugby representation in the 2013 competition will be addressed. These remarks by Van Rooysen could seriously hamper the Free State Rugby Unions bid to stay in the competition next year.
On my way out I spoke to the President of the Free State Rugby Union, Mr Lindsay Mould about the unfolding drama. To which he replied “I wish people would have come and have a look at what’s going on at the ground level before making uninformed claims.”
This is clearly a case of personal agendas and that issue of South African politicians getting involved in South African sport has once again reared its ugly head. It’s an unnecessary part of South African rugby culture and never benefits the people of South African, the fans or the sport.