WPRFU: The witch-hunt and those mysterious letters
UPDATE: The Western Province Rugby Football Union boardroom saga took an intriguing and sinister twist at the weekend, with claims of a witch-hunt and allegations of the spreading of misinformation.
The latest developments follow the fractious and often chaotic WPRFU general council meeting this past week, in which the union President Zelt Marais came under fire for acting in direct conflict to the instructions of a WPRFU/SA Rugby advisory committee on which he serves.
The six-man WPRFU/SA Rugby advisory committee consists of Marais, Patrick Kuhn, Samuel Ngumeni, Abubakar Saban, Ebrahim Rasool and Colin Moses.
It transpired that certain documentation – the minutes of an advisory committee meeting held last Saturday, August 21 – caused considerable discord in this past Thursday’s meeting.
Marais, who was tasked with distributing the document, became very defensive and claimed he wanted an ‘amendment’ to the document before passing it on to council members.
However, the document was ‘released’ to constituents through informal channels, a move that riled Marais and caused some heated debate.
It has transpired over the weekend that a concerted effort was made to find the source of the ‘leak’ – a move reportedly driven by the Marais camp, which it appears is opposed to a proposal to accept a deal that will see Staytus Cape (Pty) Ltd become the union’s new benefactor.
@rugby365com can reveal that Rasool, the Chairman of WP Professional Rugby, is the man who distributed the document Marais wanted to keep away from last week’s meeting.
On Saturday the man in charge of the professional arm of the union, Rasool, came out swinging and suggested he could not stand by and watch the union going to ruins.
While Marais opted for the ‘it is sub judice’ stance in his formal response, Rasool spoke freely to this website about the dramatic events of the past week.
“The salient matters are sub judice and by extension, the associated matters with regards to Staytus are encumbered by the sub judice status/rule until otherwise advised,” Marais said in response to a series of questions posed by @rugby365com.
“The affairs of WPRFU remain strictly subject to corporate governance practices, the approval by the ultimate shareholders, namely the General Council, and also in consultation with the joint SARU/WP advisory committee,” he added.
Unlike Marais, Rasool opened up about aspects such as the ‘leak’ and his reasons behind making the document available to the clubs.
He accused Marais of ‘deliberately’ withholding valuable information from the clubs.
“I take responsibility for distributing it,” Rasool said of the letter from the WPRFU/SA Rugby advisory committee meeting last Saturday.
At the meeting – attended by the members of the WPRFU executive committee and the members of WPPR – Staytus Cape (Pty) Ltd put forward their proposal for an ‘urgent’ out of court settlement with Flyt/Dream World.
The advisory committee following a meeting in the wake of the presentation, “requested” that the two-page letter and recommendation that the Staytus deal must be accepted, should be distributed to the members of the WPRFU general council.
Marais was tasked with this ‘assignment’.
However, Rasool said this never happened and he felt it was a deliberate act by Marais.
“The six people on the advisory committee – which included Zelt Marais – unanimously decided to support the deal,” Rasool told @rugby365com.
“The letter and its content were also accepted by the committee. Marais raised no concerns at the meeting.
“It was decided to distribute the letter to the clubs so they have the information and can make up their own minds.”
Rasool also revealed the events surrounding this past Thursday’s problematical WPRFU general council meeting that caused such an uproar and is now the source of a ‘witch-hunt’.
“We [the advisory committee] decided that Staytus must be afforded the opportunity to make a presentation at the general council meeting and the SA Rugby members of the advisory committee should also be present.
“The letter with the SA Rugby recommendation has to be put forward to the meeting.
“However, two hours before [this past] Thursday’s general council meeting I had not even received my invite to the meeting – neither did the Staytus representatives, nor the SA Rugby members.
“And by 5pm [17.00, just hours before the meeting] I found out the letter [from the advisory committee] was not distributed either, despite our unanimous decision.
“Staytus was not even aware they had to make a presentation to the meeting.”
The WPPR Chairman said he took it upon himself to rectify matters and started getting invites and links to the zoom meeting out to the various parties.
“As one of the interested parties, I decided this could not be tolerated and gave an instruction to the company’s secretary to send the invites to the SA Rugby members and Staytus representatives.
“I also did my best to get the WPRFU/SA Rugby [advisory committee] letter through to as many clubs as possible to inform them of the committee’s decision to support the Staytus offer.
“There was a deliberate attempt to withhold information and as a member of the WPRFU/SA Rugby advisory committee I believed the clubs must have the benefit of having access to the WPRFU/SA Rugby proposal to vote in favour of the Staytus offer.”
Rasool reiterated his belief that Marais unilaterally decided not to distribute the letter of recommendation for Staytus, despite being part of the unanimous decision and being tasked to do so.
“Later on he [Marais] said he was not happy with a single clause in the letter, despite earlier agreeing to it,” Rasool said.
“As far as I am concerned, it was my responsibility to fulfil the decision to invite all the committee members and Staytus representatives to the meeting as well as ensuring the letter is distributed.
“I acted according to my conscience, as I would have been guilty of ‘reckless business practices’.
“I just could not idly stand by while ‘Rome burns’.
“I did what needed to be done.”
Marais, in stark contrast to the instructions of the advisory committee to forward their letter in support of the deal, distributed a document from the lawyers Korbers Incorporated – which is advising against accepting the deal.
It is worth noting that Korbers are also litigating for the WPRFU against Flyt.
The WPRFU legal bill for 2021 has already exceeded ZAR3-million.
Also worth reading
How Staytus can save WPRFU’s bacon
WPRFU sell property shares to assist with ‘cash flow’
WPRFU v Moerat: Junaid wins first round in High Court
SA Rugby trying to keep WPRFU out of court
New financial bomb drops on WPRFU
The snake pit that is WPRFU v Flyt
WPRFU and Dreamworld court stand-off just got real
Flyt bomb drops on Newlands saga
McKeever was only a ‘facilitator’
WPRFU & Stade: Another McKeever misfire