Graeme Joffe

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2012-09-06 14:15
Sport24 columnist Graeme Joffe (File)

President of Sascoc Gideon Sam congratulated all SA's Olympic athletes on a job well done and encouraged them to start planning for the 2016 games in Rio at a gala dinner held in Cape Town.

There's an old adage that "No news is good news". Bearing that in mind, it would be easy to presume that no ghost writing from SASCOC this past week must be good news.

Are Gideon Sam and Tubby Reddy resigning and is the sports minister leading a full forensic investigation into the affairs of SASCOC?

Dream on.

In fact, Mr Mbalula and Mr Sam were exchanging compliments this week for a job “well done”. Mr Mbalula was praised for what he has done for school sport and Mr Sam praised for Team SA’s apparently successful Olympic Games (the actual success of which I discussed in a previous column).
Anyway, I’ve been watching a great deal of the Paralympics and am amazed at the achievements of these incredible athletes. Natalie du Toit just epitomises everything that is good in SA sport and we could not ask for a better role model. 

The fact that these athletes strive against such difficult odds only makes it worse, in my opinion, when their administrators throw more hurdles in their paths.

My heart breaks for a number of SA athletes who should have been competing in London but have had their dreams destroyed by SASCOC.

Two such athletes are SA table tennis stars, Alet Moll and Pieter du Plooy who qualified for the 2012 Paralympics by winning gold (yes, gold) at the African qualification tournament in Egypt last year.

More disgusting is the fact that SASCOC never informed them that they weren’t going – they found out a week before the entry deadline from the International Table Tennis Federation that SASCOC had not approved their selection.

The South African Table Tennis Board (SATTB) had signed a discriminate Memo of Understanding with SASCOC, which not only denied them entry to these Games, but also makes it virtually impossible for these players to qualify for any future Paralympics.

The players had no time for proper legal recourse but after challenging SASCOC on their non-selection, the players and members of SA Para Table Tennis committee (6 individuals) were banned from all table tennis activity in South Africa.

SASCOC has written a clause into its Athletes Agreements, prohibiting athletes from doing or saying anything which might be seen as critical of SASCOC. Not even our National Government has this kind of protection from criticism!

SASCOC not only took away my dreams but now have taken away part of my livelihood - Alet Moll

Moll would have become the first South African Table Tennis player to receive a special achievement award at the London 2012 Paralympics for participating in four consecutive Games.

SASCOC’s selection policy also states: “We will guarantee a place for any athlete who is a probable medal hope or will return commendable performances”  …

By winning gold in Africa, you would think Moll and Du Plooy would have returned commendable performances at the least in London? Moll is also a former Commonwealth Games silver medallist.

There’s more to this than meets the eye.

The South African Para Table Tennis Committee (SAPTTC) appealed the decision and even included the Minister of Sport and Recreation to review the dubious SASCOC policy that kept the Para Table Tennis players out of the team.

Over the period of February 2012 - April 2012 the SAPTTC exhausted all their options to have this decision reviewed, unfortunately without success.

SASCOC then terminated all the members in their individual capacity without any Disciplinary Hearing, stating that they have brought SASCOC into disrepute.

“I was asked to withdraw from the SA Para Championships held in Pretoria in July 2012, Gauteng North League and even my club. Table Tennis is part of my weekly livelihood and sanity as a disabled person.

Werksmans Attorneys, which have been absolutely wonderful and supportive to our cause, indicated that they are ready to take our termination review to court. Unfortunately the reality is always funding and we are now stuck as it is impossible for me financially contribute to this.” 
– Alet Moll

How can it be that an organisation in a democratic country such as ours can have the power to prevent a citizen from pursuing a sporting endeavour or earning a living, without so much as affording that citizen the opportunity to be confronted by her accusers, or to present her case?

How can it be, in a democracy, that a citizen can be bullied into accepting SASCOC's decisions, and to avoiding legal action, through the threat of suspension?

This harps back to the darkest days of apartheid, when labourers had to put up and shut up.
I have no doubt that the suspended SA Para Table tennis players and SAPTTC members will be re-instated after successful legal proceedings against SASCOC but they don’t have the resources to go to court because SASCOC has deprived them of the means to earn a living.

If you are willing to assist: please email:

How can we allow this to continue?

I may be a lone voice right now but I know I’m not alone with the sporting public. A fellow journalist even sent me a tweet saying:  “Give it up, your farts are blowing back in your face” … (excuse the language) – but I hope after reading the soul destroying table tennis saga, he changes his mind and takes a stance.

It is the flagrant disrespect from a sports administration that continues to ride a gravy train and derail the dreams of many SA sportsmen and sportswomen.

We may never get answers from SASCOC, just continued deflection but some more to ponder:

• SASCOC sent a pre and post games letter to each athlete notifying of breach of contract if SASCOC was mentioned in a negative light. Is this not unconstitutional, never mind draconian?

• Athletes from other countries received a certain number of (free) tickets from the IOC for stadium events. I can only presume that SA were also allocated tickets. Did the athletes receive any? If these tickets were issued to SASCOC from the London Organising Committee – how many were used by officials (ie gravy train) ?

• Tickets were on offer to the athletes before leaving SA but the athletes were made aware of this only a day or so before the offer expired and they had to be paid for in cash, in pounds.

What happened to these pounds?

• Some athletes had their accreditation for attendance of stadium athletic events cancelled once at the Games. Why?

• Many of SA’s athletes had to leave the Olympic village a day after their event but how many officials stayed for the duration of the Games?

• Personal coaches had a nightmare just trying to get into the village, let alone getting accreditation. SASCOC were given a daily allocation of day passes and managed as they saw fit.

Nothing changes from one Games to the next – they are the “gravy train” Games.

Finally, Mr Mbalula, I see the SA “costly” Sports Awards are coming up in November. In an Olympic year, would it not have been better to spend that money on the Olympians preparations or for that matter, sports development?   

But I would like to know if I could please replace Beyonce on the VIP guest list?

I’m “singing” like a canary!   

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 Follow Graeme Joffe on Twitter: @joffersmyboy

Email Graeme at:
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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