Graeme Joffe

SASCOC - you disgust me!

2012-09-14 13:45
SPort24 columnist Graeme Joffe (File)
SASCOC continues to raise questions… or does it?

The Fourth Estate has not always been a welcome part of society. Previously, the people who are on the receiving end of our pens try simply to silence us through threat and intimidation. Nowadays, though, it seems that the establishment is adopting a different approach to the problem of embarrassing journalists - it simply buys their favour.

How does a mainstream journalist, whose trip to the Paralympics was funded by SASCOC, then expose some of their actions? And what does it say about journalistic integrity when journalists accept this kind of largesse?

We as South African media and sports fans should all be calling for a full forensic audit of SASCOC. We have the right to know how their money is A) earned and B) spent. When questions like this are met with hostility, defensiveness, and the closing of shutter doors, what else are we to believe but that there is most certainly fire beneath that smoke?

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I am fully behind our Olympic athletes. I don’t want to take anything away from the shine they gave SA sport at both the Olympics and Paralympics. Asking awkward questions of SASCOC is not a swipe at them – it is an attempt to bring to light NOW things which can only cause more problems in four years’ time, if they are not unearthed.

We, as the media, tread an awkward line. It is our job to report on the news and to comment on what we report. That means that, in the same breath, we can heap praise on the athletes, whist criticising SASCOC. Unfortunately, SASCOC seeks to hide behind the athletes, to take credit for their performance and to avoid any questions about SASCOC’s non-performance. 

Why are the media allowing it, I have to ask?

The Paralympic medallists received great news when sports minister Fikile Mbalula demanded that SASCOC reward them with the same financial bonuses as the Olympic athletes. Good on ya, Mr Mbalula. I had a good laugh when SASCOC president Gideon Sam made the announcement – he was swallowing very hard, knowing that his own bonus had probably just gone out the window.

But I am very interested to know where SASCOC quickly found an extra R4 million for the Paralympic bonuses? How many times we’ve heard the SASCOC cries for more corporate investment as the SASCOC coffers are running dry. Is this not a dead giveaway that SASCOC uses lotto funding and corporate sponsorship like their own personal bank account?

While on the subject, do you not think it is only right and fitting that the Olympic rowing gold medallists now get R400k each, instead of having to share R400k? Surely SASCOC can come up with the extra R300k, considering that they spent more than that on one party for themselves in London?

Paying the rowers what they richly deserve would also be more good PR for SASCOC and would paper over the cracks for a little while longer.

If the heartbreaking Paralympic table tennis story from my last column resonated with you, then this next story will also make you wonder how we can stop this.

Fourteen-year-old table tennis star, Jade Sassman, from a disadvantaged community in Cape Town has been told she is not allowed to participate in the SA national championships, which start at the end of the month, because she did not want to attend the World Cadet championships without her personal coach, Greg Naik.

At first glance, that may seem like an arrogant request, so I delved deeper, and here is the background to it:

- Naik has been Jade’s private coach for the last three years and has also helped to fund her amazing progress through the ranks
- Jade won an African bronze medal, the youngest to do so in South African table tennis history
- She was chosen, at this young age, to represent South Africa
- Naik’s club, Boundary Table Tennis, has also produced 21 athletes that have represented South Africa over the past 10 years 

Even if they did not want to fund Naik’s trip, outright refusing an athlete to attend the World champs with her coach (especially an athlete of Jade’s age and background, who surely needs some adult support) seems a little extreme?

But it gets worse. 

The South African Table Tennis Federation (SATTB), labelled it as bringing the sport into disrepute. All this without an enquiry being held, at which Jade could have made out a case for Naik’s inclusion, or for her wanting him there. Need I remind everyone again that she is a 14-year-old child?

She was not even called to a disciplinary hearing of any sort and already she has been informed that she will not be allowed to participate in the National Champs  as punishment. This is clearly a matter of jealousy and politics to ensure that Jade and Naik remain isolated from table tennis.  

How can you treat any athlete this way, never mind a 14-year-old?

Ironically, a vice-president of SATTB is Hajera Kajee, who just happens to be on the SASCOC executive committee and also sits on the Lotto distribution board. So what would happen if SATTB’s behaviour in this were to be reported to SASCOC? Who would be called upon to judge Kajee? 

If you ask SASCOC, there’s no conflict of interests there. It’s a common thread, just like Gideon Sam is president of SASCOC but sits on the Lotto distribution and that of a big sports marketing company, which just happens to be owed millions of rands by Athletics South Africa.

Tubby Reddy is less fortunate, he’s only president of Volleyball SA, but his family still had a great time at the London Olympics.

At whose expense? 

I draw a comparison from the Times: “The Teddy Bear Clinic, a charity that helps more than 3 000 abused children every year, has been allocated only R4 million since 2007, while SA table tennis was given more than R8 million in the same period.“ 

You would think with all the money the SATTB is getting from the Lotto, we would at least have some table tennis representation at the Olympic or Paralympic Games? But we did not have one SA table tennis player in London because of administrators that don’t give a damn except for their own back pockets. An attitude which will kill the drive and desire of a 14-year-old girl like Jade Sassman.

SASCOC - you disgust me! 

From AM Louw’s comprehensive, eye opening document on SASCOC.

“South African sport cannot afford SASCOC. I would suggest that the response to government by sports federations, players’ associations, sponsors and other stakeholders should be the following: No thank you, we do not need this dictatorial creature that is being set up largely against our will, and which we will be forced to support in the furtherance of what remains a shady but painfully clear agenda. Millions of taxpayers’ rands and lottery funds can be spent to prop up this creature, but it will always have feet of clay; it will topple spectacularly before long, and we do not want to go down with it.“  

Email Graeme at: graeme@butterbean.co.za

Catch Graeme Joffe on SportsFire every Monday and Thursday at 17:30 on Radio Today, 1485am in JHB, National on DStv audio channel 169 and streaming worldwide on www.1485.org.za. Follow Graeme Joffe on Twitter: @joffersmyboy

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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