Parliament calls for urgency in resolving matter of SA rugby boss Jurie Roux
Members of the sports portfolio committee want SA rugby boss Jurie Roux dismissed, but it’s not so straightforward.
The South African Rugby Union (Saru) has received advice from Professor Michael Katz and advocate Wim Trengove on how to proceed with legal matters relating to Saru’s chief executive officer, Jurie Roux.
By all accounts Saru has been a well-run organisation for 10 years. But after losing a separate legal battle and being ordered to pay damages to the amount of R37-million to Stellenbosch University (Maties) last December, Roux’s job at Saru has been called into question.
Roux was found to have made payments from unauthorised cost centres when he ran the Maties Rugby Club finances between 2002 and 2010.
Although the arbitration ruling stated that Roux never personally benefited from the payments, the arbiter agreed that Maties had suffered damages. An amount of R37-million was demanded.
The matter is now heading to the Western Cape High Court, and possibly even the Constitutional Court, as Roux continues to contest the outcome.
Saru’s legal advice has been kept confidential and was not shared in Tuesday’s parliamentary meeting, set up to discuss “outstanding matters and payment of CEO legal fees”, much to the dismay of members of the portfolio committee on sport and recreation.
“What is so private about the legal opinion when the CEO matter will be heard at the Western Cape court? Where are the documents?” asked the Democratic Alliance’s Tshepo Mhlongo.
Mark Alexander, the president of Saru, assured MPs that Saru was following the letter of the law.
“If this goes out into the public domain, it could be seen as constructive dismissal. That gives the CEO [Roux] a different avenue to follow and could cost us an arm and a leg,” said Alexander.
“We need to make sure we follow the letter of the law. We’ve got nothing to hide as we’ve submitted all the documents to the minister’s office. We’re protecting ourselves against legal principles and privileges because things we could say in those documents could be held against us in a court of law.
“Things could change in this process, which is why we’ve got people guiding us in this process. We’re not throwing around the term ‘sub judice’ loosely,” said Alexander.
Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa said he was happy with the procedure, but wanted to see more urgency.
“Action must be taken on this particular matter, and urgently,” said Mthethwa.
Saru has already taken a financial hammer blow after a year-long absence from the game in 2020 and playing in front of empty stadiums in 2021, due to the Covid pandemic.
But it showed a small profit in 2021 and has signed several new sponsors with Roux at the helm. Despite this, Mthethwa believes the image of Saru has suffered.
“I think we are on par on how the portfolio committee views the matter, and I would say this matter is damaging the image of rugby, no doubt about that,” said Mthethwa.
“That’s why we are emphasising… we are not saying they should not do things legally, but we want to see accelerated pace on the matter and we want to see action taken.”
The parliamentary committee members stressed their concern over the damage the image of South African rugby had taken.
“This issue damaged the sport,” said Mhlongo.
“This case is damaging the image of Saru,” concurred committee member Vuyisile Promise Malomane.
The request for swift action by Saru from ministers was echoed by the chairperson of the committee, Beauty Dlulane.
“We want this thing to come to an end, and at the end of it, I’m suspecting this independent somebody, the department, through you, Saru, will ask for the fast-tracking of the issue. This is [the] image of Saru, this is [the] image of the leadership of Saru, let alone of the department,” said Dlulane.
“At least you are saying you are at the end of it, but we need timeframes… this is an issue that needs to come to an end.”
Alexander told the committee: “We have given the HR specialist a month to conclude the work that he is doing.”
There will be a follow-up parliamentary committee meeting where Saru will have the opportunity to present its latest findings.
“We felt there was a lack of communication from the department, but the department was waiting for this moment that Saru must come to report. This is very important, I’m taking this upon myself to present this portfolio committee to monitor this month’s timeframe,” said Dlulane.
“Come month-end, I will ask the office of the minister, I’m giving surety that we will call you again, Saru to come and update us. This thing, we want it to come to an end. The image of sport in South Africa, the image of rugby, it needs you, your leadership to be firm and push whoever [is] supposed to do what you expect that they must do.
“We’ll wait and see, and very soon we will call you [Saru] into the committee.” DM