Hoskins a victim of rugby's power struggle

2016-08-17 15:44
Oregan Hoskins (File)

A lack of accountability is permeating through every sector of our society: from local councils right up to the presidency – and it’s now taken hold of South African rugby.

Oregan Hoskins’ sudden resignation as president of the South African Rugby Union (SARU) shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone - he is the victim of a vicious power struggle within the richly carpeted, oak-panelled walls of SARU’s head offices on the slopes of the Tygerberg in Cape Town.

The prize?

Executive control over the sport in this country and with it control over the millions of Rands that sponsors until recently so eagerly pumped into the game.

Hoskins has battled his chief executive officer, Jurie Roux, for more than a year now after it became clear to him that a damning report by forensic auditors KPMG, which accuses of Roux of serious financial malfeasance during his time as head of finance at Stellenbosch University, could not be explained away - like Roux had wished.

KPMG alleges (and the Hawks are investigating these claims with a view to criminal charges) that Roux and a partner “irregularly, without authorisation and in contravention of policy” disbursed more than R35 million from Stellenbosch University’s reserve funds. The university is now suing Roux to recover the lost funds.

Roux - along with his hitman lawyer Frikkie Erasmus - tried to block any and all reporting of the matter, even going as far as to bring an application in the high court in Cape Town to prevent details from KPMG’s forensic report being made public. When that didn’t work, Roux and Erasmus - in cahoots with SARU and its spokesperson, Andy Colquhoun - attempted to stall the media from probing the matter further.

The damage this whole saga has done to the reputation of SARU is enormous. Whereas a season or two ago the Springboks had headline sponsors clamouring to be associated with the green-and-gold, this year it’s rough and tumble for our national rugby team. The Boks will on Saturday be playing with the logo of a business-to-business brand, Blue Label Telecoms, on their jerseys - hardly a blue-chip sponsor.

More importantly, SARU has shown a dislike and a refusal to adhere to basic rules of good corporate governance. There are, at the very least, serious questions of Roux’s ability to dispense his fiduciary responsibilities as his position demands. Can Saru’s shareholders - we, the rugby supporters - really afford to have the sport we love being run by someone who, according to KPMG, flaunts rules, process and procedure? And with other people’s money to boot!

When the allegations surfaced Hoskins gave his CEO the benefit of the doubt, like any chair of a company would probably have done. His mistake however was to give Roux access to the KPMG report when the agreement with the university was that it would not be done. It gave Roux time to set up his defences within the organisation, manipulate certain sections of the media and shape bulwarks against attacks.

This he did effectively, isolating Hoskins and taking control of SARU’s executive committee. The organisation’s structure is archaic and chaotic, with the executive committee running the show, but the president’s council (made of provincial union presidents) in effect being the “shareholders”. Roux, of course, has these presidents by the short hairs - he decides which unions get test matches, the big money spinners.

When Hoskins lost the executive council, he still had the union presidents on his side. But it seems that Roux with Hoskins’ ambitious deputy Mark Alexander by his side made it clear to the union presidents where their succour comes from - and it wasn’t from the president.

When a government department or public office bearer is accused of irregular or improper dealings, we demand accountability. Why should SARU be any different?

Questions also need to be asked of people like Louis von Zeuner, the former deputy CEO of Absa, who serves on the SARU executive committee and is clearly aware of the seriousness of the situation. He helped run SA’s biggest bank – would he have been happy if a senior bank official was implicated in shady business dealings like Roux? Absa’s shareholders would certainly have raised an eyebrow. 

Hoskins - belatedly - tried to do things differently. He was denied. We shouldn’t let this go.

Pieter du Toit is assistant editor of Huisgenoot, a sister publication of Sport24.

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.

Read more on:    saru  |  oregan hoskins  |  rugby


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