‘Horseracing back on the right track’
PE breeder welcomes public protector’s call for body to oversee industry
A recommendation by the public protector that President Cyril Ramaphosa establish a committee to oversee thoroughbred horseracing will finally see the industry restored to its former glory.This is according to Port Elizabeth businesswoman and breeder Phindi Kema.Kema wrote to the public protector in January 2012 requesting that the Gauteng provincial government be investigated after Phumelela Gaming and Leisure, formed more than two decades ago, managed to take control of the horseracing industry in seven of the country’s nine provinces.Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane released her report in May, following a marathon investigation started by her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela. “I welcome the report. “The reconstruction of the industry can start immediately,” Kema said.Phumelela will, however, soon head to court in an attempt to have the report reviewed and set aside.In a statement last week, it disputed Mkhwebane’s findings, which it said were unfair and biased. “These observations and findings have caused Phumelela reputational harm.”Kema alleged maladministration and improper conduct relating to a memorandum of understanding between the Gauteng government and the horseracing industry in the province‚ concluded 21 years ago. The agreement led to the transfer of a number of racecourses to Phumelela.Kema alleged the conclusion of the agreement was improper and constituted maladministration because it did not follow a parliamentary consultation process. She said this led to a monopoly of the industry in favour of Phumelela.Kema alleged that, as a result‚ horseracing clubs across the country – including in Port Elizabeth – handed over racecourses to Phumelela at no cost or for R1‚ some of which were later sold for profit. Kema said this included Arlington Racecourse which, she contended, was sold to Phumelela for R1 by the Eastern Cape Racing Club, a custodian of the land.But Mkhwebane, in her report “Corporatisation of thoroughbred horseracing in Gauteng”, could find no evidence to back up the claim that the Arlington was purchased for R1.Kema, however, said she had hoped that Mkhwebane would focus on how racecourses outside Gauteng ended up being owned by Phumelela through the agreement.“That is the big question that needs to be answered.”Mkhwebane further highlighted that the memorandum was meant to restructure the industry with the object of having black empowerment groups brought on board.“This was not realised. It is clear that the whole restructuring process was never intended to attract other racial groups into horseracing but to maintain the keeping of thoroughbred horseracing by one racial grouping, which is the white minority,” she wrote.As a result of the memorandum of understanding, Mkhwebane said, Phumelela had received R711m from the Gauteng Gambling Board.Mkhwebane called on Ramaphosa to establish a ministerial committee through trade and industry and economic development minister Ebrahim Patel, who must then establish an independent body to serve as a regulator for thoroughbred horseracing.Mkhwebane further asked that premiers of all provinces affected by the corporatisation request that Ramaphosa issue a proclamation for the Special Investigating Unit to further probe the industry.Phumelela said it had co-operated with the public protector’s investigation since it commenced and had submitted large volumes of documents and information to her office.“The public protector appears to have disregarded most of this relevant information in coming to her conclusions. In addition, she has accused Phumelela of constantly frustrating her investigation. Phumelela denies this.“It is pertinent to note that the public protector refused, prior to issuing her final report, to give Phumelela access to the evidence upon which her findings were based or to afford Phumelela the opportunity to question witnesses who gave evidence. She acted in a manner which is unconstitutional, contrary to the principle of legality and outside of her powers. She acted in a procedurally unfair, biased and capricious manner.“The report sets out the findings of the public protector in respect of four issues relating to the corporatisation process and despite the fact that the public protector concluded that three of the four issues investigated by her were unsubstantiated.”Because of this, the wideranging remedial action was entirely unrelated to the findings, the company said.Kema said she was disappointed Phumelela planned to challenge the report in court.She alleged that the memorandum of understanding had resulted in the capture of the entire horseracing industry.“This should be exposed so the court understands how this mess has destroyed people’s lives,” she said, adding that stud farms had declined in the country from 1,482 to 162 because of the sale of racecourses.“None of this can sustain the industry,” she said.