Zelt accused of 'conspiratorial management' as directors walk out
REACTION: The five suspended executive committee members of the Western Province Rugby Football Union have broken their silence over their sudden suspension this past week.
In another massive development Saturday, on a day of high drama, four independent directors of the Board of Western Province Professional Rugby (Pty) Ltd handed in their resignations.
Janine Myburgh, Melene Rossouw, Solly Moeng and Sabelo Mzanywa all handed in their resignations as the administrative chaos in the WPRFU boardroom spiralled out of control.
“No one who has been closely following the developments within Western Province Rugby over the past year can deny that the deteriorated environment within the management of Western Province Rugby has been caused by your secretive, dictatorial, and relentlessly conspiratorial management style and conduct over time,” the four said in a letter to WPRFU President Zelt Marais.
“Your recent actions to completely disregard existing management structures at WPRFU and to centralize all decision-making authority in your hands have come after a long series of actions by you to undermine the good work we have tried to do to help Western Province Rugby stand on its feet again, even despite the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns,” they said.
“Furthermore, many decisions you have single-handedly taken over time without consultation – or when you chose to undermine even collective decisions taken in your presence – have placed the material conditions of the union [WPRFU] into jeopardy, having single-handedly moved them from the proverbial frying pan into the fire.
“Such decisions, utterances and actions have also, by extension – because the two organizations are linked – further impacted directly on the viability of the Company [WPPR] to stand on its feet again.”
Meanwhile, in a strongly-worded letter, the ExCo Five hit back at the behaviour of WPRFU President Zelt Marais in the “toxic environment” the union functions in.
The letter concludes with a sentence that says: ‘For evil to thrive, it takes a good man to say nothing‘.
They also reveal a case of ‘physical abuse’ and ‘growing dysfunctionality’ in the Marais-run union.
The letter paints a picture of Marais systematically removing ‘dissenting voices’.
The letter also suggests that Marais has refused to step down from some of the multiple positions he holds on the executive – including Chief of Finance and Interim CEO of the Union.
Marais last Thursday informed Reuben Riffel, Anele Zita, Quintin Van Rooyen, the already suspended Mario Williams and vice-president Ronald Bantom that they must appear before a disciplinary committee on Thursday, October 21.
They are charged with being in breach of the WPRFU’s codes of conduct.
The notice was sent on an outdated letterhead that lists Marais as the ‘acting CEO’ – a contested position – and Thelo Wakefield as President.
Wakefield was replaced as President by Marais in 2018.
The document, on a WP Rugby letterhead, also includes the names of former group CEO Paul Zacks (who resigned in January 2020), former vice-president Gerald Njengele, Peter Jooste (recently resigned) – along with others who have moved on, such as Dave Kagan and Spencer King.
The disciplinary action brought by Marais follows the urgent application in the Western Cape High Court against Marais (as President) and WPRFU on September 23.
The five – Bantom, Riffel, Van Rooyen, Williams and Zita – asked the court to remove Marais from office.
The case was removed from the roll as it was deemed ‘not urgent’ – although the five could refile at a later stage.
The latest suspensions leave only Marais and two others – Deputy President Moneeb Levy and Nadeema Khan – on what is meant to be an 11-person ExCo.
On Saturday they hit back at Marais – who they previously accused of making unilateral decisions with contract negotiations, failing or refusing to execute and implement regulations of the WPRFU ExCo and council and withholding information from members of ExCo and the council.
In their letter on Saturday, they suggested he was ‘ignoring all Corporate Governance processes as prescribed by King IV’.
They suggested the current ‘internal war’ stems from a decision in December last year, when the ExCo recalled Levy and Peter Jooste as Board members – after they failed to execute a resolution taken to nominate Junaid Moerat as the interim CEO of the company, WP Professional Rugby (Pty) Ltd.
“This resulted into a sudden alienation and evident split in the ExCo,” they said, adding that it contributed to a “toxic environment”.
The letter also reveals Marais’ unwillingness to act against fellow ExCo members who are guilty of abuse.
“A request was put forward to the President to pursue the case against Jooste after he physically assaulted Bantom in a GM in 2018,” the ExCo Five said in their letter.
“The President promised that he will look into the case in January 2021.
“However, till to this date, nothing has been done against Jooste, who have eventually [last month] resigned as an ExCo Member.”
The letter goes on to list a number of failed transactions – such Remgro, Investec, Flyt, Masotti and Staytus – accusing Marais of deliberately frustrating the process.
“The President is in possession of the approved DD and Feasibility studies of the Staytus transaction, but refuse to share it with his ExCo and Council.
“The recent delays in auditing the financials of WPRFU centred around differences of opinion on property valuations.
“This disagreement created a 10-month delay for approving the 2018 financials and the 2019 financials only being concluded in 2021.
“The 2020 financials remain outstanding and due to the going concern criteria might not be ready for approval soon.
“This was all caused by the President who inflated the value of the Properties to which the auditors objected.”
They also hit out at Marais ‘war room initiative’ – which created alternative structures outside the already legitimate WPRFU committees.
* See below the letters from the ExCo Five and the independent directors
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