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Netball SA rocked by internal battles as federations take aim at NSA president

Netball SA rocked by internal battles as federations take aim at NSA president
Cara Koenen of Australia and Phumza Maweni of South Africa compete for the ball during the third game of the international Test match series between the Diamonds and the Proteas at MyState Bank Arena in Hobart, Australia, on 31 October 2023. (Photo: Albert Perez / Getty Images)

Allegations are that Netball South Africa president Cecilia Molokwane is systematically removing threats to her 2025 re-election. She vehemently denies this.

Squabbles off the netball court are threatening to derail the strides that the sport has made after hosting the World Cup in 2023. At the centre of this is Netball South Africa (NSA) president Cecilia Molokwane.   

Molokwane is a former netball player and coach. She also served on the national executive as director of selection. She has been at the helm of NSA since the tail-end of 2017. 

Molokwane, who was re-elected as head honcho of NSA in 2021, is also the president of Netball Africa. The highlight of her tenure is undoubtedly bringing the World Cup to Africa.   

Over the past couple of years she has had to fend off various allegations against her. Both by former members of NSA, as well as some individuals currently actively involved in the running of the sport at provincial and district level.

In 2023, former employees of NSA made a number of allegations against Molokwane. During the 20-minute documentary, put together by AfriForum, former vice-president of NSA, Christine du Preez, as well as former Netball SA director of umpires Annie Kloppers were some of the people who pointed a finger at Molokwane.

Their accusations against the incumbent NSA president included racism, mismanagement and interference when it comes to selections.

When asked by Daily Maverick to respond to these allegations during a press conference in 2023, Molokwane swatted them aside, saying: “A dog will never bark at a stationary car. A dog will always bark at a moving car. It means there is something good that I’m doing.”

Fresh allegations

Molokwane is once again in the spotlight in 2024. This time, sources allege that she is systematically removing people who she feels will not back her for a third term as president at the 2025 Netball SA elections.

Currently NSA and Gauteng Netball are engaged in a fierce battle, after the national federation disbanded the executive of the provincial structure. In an internal letter dated 7 March 2024, which is in the possession of Daily Maverick, Molokwane listed the reasons for the dismantling of the existing structure.

These include alleged instances of malpractice and maladministration, particularly the failure to provide information, failure to follow procedures and inadequate record keeping. Structural and protocol dysfunctionality, as well as a lack of transparency, were also cited in Molokwane’s communique, along with disharmony among members of the structure. 

Netball SA Cecilia Molokwane

Netball South Africa president Cecilia Molokwane has been accused of removing people who may be a threat to her re-election. (Photo: Philip Maeta / Gallo Images)

However, according to a source who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, Netball SA’s decision was drastic and there were other avenues it could have taken to try to resolve whatever concerns they had before disbanding the Gauteng executive.

“What happens is that as the national federation, they have the obligation to visit district structures and provincial structures, in order to assess their functionality,” the source said.

“The whole point of that functionality visit is to find what’s missing, give them support and develop them, so that they do things as the national federation requires.  

“It’s not the purpose of the visit to dismantle structures. But whatever mistakes she (Molokwane) finds there, instead of developing those people or giving them support, she would disband them. Disband the whole structure.”

The allegation is that Molokwane is using her powers as president to remove any members of the national organisation who she views as being a threat to her 2025 re-election bid.

This claim is strengthened by claims by Gauteng Netball president Khosi Dlamini that she and her organisation were not informed by NSA about the allegations levelled against them in Molokwane’s letter.

“It’s troubling that we first learnt about the allegations after the NSA had already decided to dissolve the executive committee. Prior to that, there was never any correspondence in which we were requested to reply to the claims made in the letter,” Dlamini said about her executive’s removal, as quoted by City Press.

Dented name

Molokwane rubbished the claims during a telephonic conversation with Daily Maverick, saying her name was being tarnished by “unknown people” who fight their battles through the media.

“I don’t respond to people who are unknown. If you can write that in black and white, and put it to me in black and white… So that I know who I’m responding to,” Molokwane said.

“I’m tired of being accused of things that I don’t know about. And by people who are protected. If you accuse me, you must be brave enough to say I am Cecilia Molokwane and I’m accusing so and so on this and that.’ That’s fair.

“I cannot take such a bold decision; to disband a province without proof. There is no way. It’s not about me. It’s about Netball South Africa. We can’t take such a decision without proof. Because now it’s like I’m the monster here. It cannot be.

“My name has been dented. It’s enough. Netball is not going to take my name down like that. I’m a woman of God. I respect people. And I will do the right thing. As a human being, somewhere, somehow, I will do wrong things. But I’ve grown to learn to apologise when I’m wrong.

“As much as I put it in black and white to say I’m disbanding you, people [who accuse me of these things] must put it in black and white… People cannot run to the media and think because of that, we’ll be scared. No, I’m not [scared].”

Our source also said they had heard that the next provincial structures that will face Molokwane’s axe are the Eastern Cape Netball Association (ECNA) and the KwaZulu-Natal Netball (KZNN).

In fact, in another internal Netball SA communique that has been seen by Daily Maverick (dated 26 February 2024), there is a recommendation that the ECNA executive also be dismantled and “an interim structure is put in place to get their house in order”.  

This is after the national federation alleged the hierarchy of the Eastern Cape structure failed to inform them that they were holding elections.

The KZN netball structure has also faced the wrath of NSA after challenging the procedures that were followed when the national federation altered its constitution in March 2023.

KZNN alleges that the constitution of NSA was altered unethically, with processes being flouted, including checking whether the 75% majority needed to greenlight constitutional changes had been reached.

It has written to the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) as a result. KZNN also voiced concerns about Molokwane’s previous affiliation with Sascoc, when she served as a board member.

“Every structure in the country, including the national structure, reports to the council (the 54 members of NSA). The council is the ultimate body that controls netball in the country,” a source alleged.

“At the moment, the council has no say in what goes on in Netball South Africa,” they added, insinuating abuse of power from the head of the NSA hierarchy. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R35.

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