The South African Rugby Union (SARU) and the Sport and Recreation Minister asked the court to dismiss an application by political party Agency for New Agenda (ANA) for a court directing the Executive to order a Judicial Commission into the state of transformation of rugby.
ANA earlier withdrew its bid for an interdict to stop the Springboks from competing in the Rugby World Cup later this month because the team was not transformed enough.
Judge Moses Mavundla directed ANA’s advocate and the senior advocates appearing for SARU and the Minister to come to an agreement about a court order which which give ANA a chance to amend their court papers “in a manner that would take the case forward.”
Counsel for SARU, Advocate Etienne Labuschagne SC, stressed that SARU was not opposing transformation, as could be seen from its Strategic Transformation Plan, but stressed that ASA should start from scratch with properly formulated relief.
He said progress has already been made in respect of transformation, but may be adversely affected if the implementation of transformation was put on hold until after a Commission of Enquiry.
He said members of the public who were frustrated at the pace of transformation had the right to petition the President to appoint a commission of inquiry.
Labuschagne argued that it was not competent for the court to direct the President to appoint such a commission, as the power to do so vested solely in the President, who was furthermore not sited as a respondent in the application.
He submitted that the remaining relief sought by ANA was no longer urgent, was not competent in law and was premature as the President has not refused or failed to appoint a commission.
A statement by Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula in which he stressed government’s commitment to the transformation of sport and recreation in South Africa, was also placed before the court.
Mbalula referred to the transformation agreement that had been signed with the major sports federations, including SARU, which set targets and compliance requirements, linked to punitive measures if they failed to meet targets.
These measures could include the withdrawal of government funding and recognition and the withdrawal of political support and endorsements for sponsorship if they did not toe the line.
He pointed out that South Africa was a signatory to the Olympic Charter which prohibits governments from interfering with team selection and that the Sport and Recreation Act also did not enable the Minister to interfere in the selection of the national rugby team.