The ongoing power struggle within Western Province Rugby has taken a turn for the worse as the antagonism between Zelt Marais and Ebrahim Rasool intensifies.
In the latest plot development of WP’s ongoing boardroom soap opera, Marais and Rasool have butted heads after claims of a smear campaign and allegations of spreading misinformation surfaced.
During the WPRFU’s general council meeting last week, Marais came under fire for disobeying and acting in direct conflict to the instructions of the joint WPRFU and SA Rugby advisory committee, which consists of six people – Patrick Kuhn, Samuel Ngumeni, Abubakar Saban, Colin Moses, Rasool and Marais himself.
It is being alleged that a document containing the minutes of the previous committee meeting, held on 21 August, is what caused division within the committee.
Marais was responsible for the distribution of the document, but failed to do so because he wanted to amend it before passing it on. The Marais faction within the union is said to be opposed to a proposal to accept a deal that will make Staytus Cape (Pty) Ltd the union’s new benefactor.
Instead, Marais distributed a letter from lawyers Korbers Incorporated, which advised against accepting the deal. Korbers are also litigating for the WPRFU against Flyt.
The document Marais withheld was then leaked without his say-so to the union’s constituents and prompted the union’s president to launch an investigation to find the source of the leak.
According to a report on Rugby365.com, Rasool, who serves as the chairman of WP Rugby, is the one who went ahead and released the document against Marais’ wishes.
When the advisory committee, along with the WPRFU executive committee, reconvened this past Saturday, Staytus Cape (Pty) Ltd put forward their proposal for an ‘urgent’ out-of-court settlement with Flyt/Dream World.
Rasool also admitted he distributed the document and accused Marais of deliberately withholding valuable information from the union’s clubs.
“I take responsibility for distributing it,” Rasool told Rugby365. “The six people on the advisory committee – which included Zelt Marais – unanimously decided to support the deal.
“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.”
“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 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 [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.
“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.
“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.”
When asked to comment on the allegations levelled against him by Rasool, Marais remained coy.
“The salient matters are sub judice and, by extension, the associated matters with regard to Staytus are encumbered by the sub judice status or rule until otherwise advised,” Marais said.
“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.”
According to another report on Netwerk24, SA Rugby has been hesitant to intervene and place the union under administration, but it appears this could be the only solution to bring some normality and stability to Western Province.