Ex SA Football Association chief executive Dennis Mumble has come out guns blazing and expressed his disappointment in the way his departure last year has been “misrepresented” in the public domain.
Below is Mumble’s letter to all members of the SAFA Council, which is in FARPost’s possession.
TO: All Members of the SAFA Council
DATE: 10 May 2020
RE: MY STATUS IN RELATION TO THE SOUTH AFRICAN FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION
Dear SAFA Council Member,
Over the past several weeks my relative calm and peace have been disturbed by a very worrying series of events/utterances emanating from the Association, presenting an image that besmirches my lengthy and diligent years of service and devotion to the ideals of the South African Football Association. It would be a travesty of justice if I leave this unattended.
It is not pleasing to witness the manner in which the circumstances of my departure from the Association has been misrepresented in the public domain by representatives of the Association, led by its President (Danny Jordaan). I am in possession of newspaper articles, television interviews and social media posts wherein it is inferred or alleged by members of, or representatives of, the Association that I was forcibly retired, that I wanted to force a return to the Association even though I was over the Association’s retirement age, described as incompetent and among those milking SAFA dry and that the Council had taken a decision regarding my status. To say the least, I felt very insulted as this was never stated to me in any meeting of the Council, the only entity with the authority to make such a pronouncement after due consideration.
In the circumstances, I am therefore forced to submit my response for your kind consideration and trust that the circumstances around my departure would be clear and that the matters raised in my submission would be addressed in the context that it is placed. It is also intended to appeal to your sense of fairness and your devotion to your fiduciary duties as directors of the board of the Association.
In South Africa, directors’ duties as set out in our common law and in the Companies Act include the fiduciary duty to act in good faith and for a proper purpose in the best interests of the company and also acting with due care, skill and diligence. Parmi Natesan, Executive: Centre for Corporate Governance at the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa (IoDSA).
I am particularly mindful of the pitfalls board members face when serving on boards such as the SAFA Council and that your fate as a board member is dependent on the quality of information that is placed in front of you. Hence, the recognition in South African company law of the Business Judgement Rule. This rule “essentially outlines how directors can defend their decisions if they are able to demonstrate that they satisfied the obligations of acting in the best interests of the company and with the required care of skill, in that they; took reasonably diligent steps to be informed about the matter and access the correct information, had a rational basis to believe that their decision was in the best interests of the company at the time, and that they had no personal financial interest in the matter.”
It is therefore incumbent upon me to place this information in front of you for your urgent consideration and to allow you to exercise your best judgement in relation to my departure from the Association and not to act on the basis of the seemingly limited information that has been placed in front of you.
In fulfilment of my fiduciary responsibility, I notified the SAFA Council on 8 October 2016, through the SAFA Finance Committee, that my contract was coming to an end within 19 months from the date of that meeting. This was duly acknowledged and it was agreed that the “SAFA Presidency” would deal with the matter. [see page 7 of the SAFA Council Minutes of 8 October 2016]. The notice was clear that I had no expectation of a renewal of my contract and invited the Council to commence a succession planning process or to indicate whether it sought to renew my contract.
However, subsequent to that meeting, the “SAFA Presidency” (commonly assumed to be the President and the Vice Presidents at the time) did not follow up on this matter. Instead, the President sent Mr Thamsanqa Gay Mokoena, in October 2017 to commence negotiations with me on a renewal of my contract. Mr Mokoena was then the Chairman of the Finance Committee and also simultaneously the Chairman of the Remunerations Committee.
In November 2016, I informed Mr Mokoena that it served no purpose for us to discuss my contract as i) the President was constitutionally responsible for recommending the appointment of the CEO to the Council, and ii) that there were matters that I needed to discuss directly with him regarding his unilateral interference in administrative matters which severely compromised my authority over the SAFA administration.
The President was told about my position by Mr Mokoena in early December 2017 and requested that I meet him on 22 December 2017 at a coffee shop in Morningside. At that meeting, I informed the President of my dissatisfaction, but he denied that he had acted as an Executive President and appealed for us to move forward given the serious challenges faced by the organization.
There were no further engagements on this matter until 28 March 2018, when it was raised during an off-the-record session, chaired by Vice-President Elvis Shishana, at a Council meeting at the Hilton Hotel in Sandton. Mr Abel Rakoma proposed that my contract be renewed and I objected because I was still waiting for the meeting to address the concerns I had with the President’s conduct which had grown progressively worse. Mr Rakoma then amended his proposal to ask the NEC to extend my existing contract by 6 months. The President, to my surprise, actually praised my work and promised that the meeting would take place the next day. That meeting never took place.
Five months later, with my contract about to expire within another month, I had to take my accumulated leave starting in September 2018 as I had a substantial amount of accrued leave. I had only taken a single week of leave each year for the duration of my 5-year tenure as CEO. During the month of September 2018, the President, who had steadfastly avoided any discussion with me regarding my status within the organization, requested Vice-Presidents Mokoena, Ledwaba and Nkompela to finalize the contract negotiations. The three Vice-Presidents can confirm the nature of the three meetings we had. The President briefly attended the first meeting and expressed his wish that I submit a financial turnaround strategy in view of the challenges we faced in the absence of a broadcast contract with the SABC.
During those meetings with the Vice-Presidents, I asked that a set of 7 concerns of mine be addressed as it related to the President’s conduct, matters which I had already addressed with both Mr Mokoena and the President. As requested by the President, I presented a turnaround strategy to the three Vice-Presidents on 7 November 2018. In that same meeting, I also requested that the Association let me know about the fulfilment of the terms of my expired contract, particularly the provision of a car and my annual bonus for each of the 5 years of my tenure.
The Remunerations Committee Meeting held on 3 March 2017 was informed that the President had assigned this matter to Mr Mokoena and Vice-President Lucas Nhlapo, but, to date, nothing had been done about it. Also, the Vice-Presidents appealed to me to deal with my concerns internally and attend to the office as soon as possible. Out of my stated respect for them, I agreed to return on Monday, 12 November 2018. However, after that meeting on 7 November 2018 and with no valid contract or letter of appointment in place yet and no response from the Association, I wrote an email on 27 November 2018 to Mr Mokoena (copying the two other VPs) when I came across statements in the media made by Messrs Dominic Chimhavi and Russell Paul about my status, giving the wrong impression about my absence from the Association.
I noted in my email that a picture was being painted amongst Council Members and in the public domain that I was holding the Association to ransom and being unreasonable. I also served notice that I reserved my right to take legal action should any further statements regarding my status be made by the Association.
During this period, I also explained my position to Council Member, Mr Mzimkhulu Fina (twice) and Council Member, Mr Montshiwa in October 2018, outlining just how I had been treated by the President. Mr Fina appeared sympathetic, but did not respond in detail. Mr Montshiwa commented on 14 October 2018 that the NEC did not mandate a termination nor did it decide to give me a contract. This was ostensibly because discussions were still continuing. I am quite surprised by the WhatsApp messages I have in my possession wherein both Messrs Fina and Montshiwa question why I did not raise these matters when I was still with the Association. There is a clear inference that the Council decided that I should retire.
Mr Mzwandile Maforvane, who was still a Council Member back in 2018, was also fully familiar with the myriad challenges I had with the President and had tried his best to mediate in the many fights we had about the President’s incessant interference in the Administration. In fact, during a previous run-in with the President in April 2016, Mr Maforvane also served as mediator to resolve that conflict.
Over the years, Mr Nkompela was at pains to intervene in other instances where the President had blatantly taken administrative decisions without my approval. With my frustrations already at boiling point, I also engaged in a lengthy discussion in Moscow with Dr Oliphant – who had always been a mentor during my more than two decades in the Association – about my many concerns with the President’s behaviour.
Why speak to these Council Members outside of the Council Meeting? Most of you have been witness to how I have been shouted down, humiliated and silenced in Council and other meetings by the President – with no objection from anyone. Hence, my external reference. Additionally, I also met with Mr Mokoena and Mr Nkompela in November 2018 to continue our discussions, but it was apparent that they could not convince the President to address my concerns regarding his behaviour.
My last meeting with Mr Mokoena took place in February 2019 wherein he reported that the President was no longer angry about my remarks about his interference, but “that good corporate governance would not allow” my re-appointment as CEO, and that the President suggested I head up the 2023 Women’s World Cup Bid. Mr Mokoena said somewhat jokingly that the post would be sufficiently distant and that there would be no interference, but I said that I could not see the President not interfering in my duties unless he made a conscious commitment not to do so.
On 29 October 2019, after no feedback from Mr Mokoena, I wrote my last email to him asking about the finalization of the outstanding matters from my expired contract. There was no reply from Mr Mokoena. Whilst I had sufficient grounds to pursue legal redress based on the reasonable expectation doctrine in South African labour law, I chose not to pursue same out of respect for the Vice-Presidents and their treatment of me. However, I have reserved all my rights in this respect.
Alas, a few weeks ago, I was taken aback by an SABC reporter, Mr Sipho Kekana, when he repeated what Messrs Chimhavi and Paul said in November 2018 and asked for my response. I refused to comment, save to say that I did not retire. However, Mr Kekana later published an interview with Dr Jordaan wherein he also repeated the same position regarding my so-called “retirement”. It became clear to me that there was a coordinated campaign to place my departure from the Association in a false context.
I also have in my possession press statements and WhatsApp messages where my status has been scurrilously misrepresented and my name and image besmirched by some SAFA staff members and some SAFA Council Members, despite a mountain of evidence to prove the contrary. These comments are highly misplaced and reminiscent of an ocholocratic organization. This is taking place despite the fact that the board (SAFA Council) of the Association has never called on me to hand in an exit report, as would be commonly expected from an outgoing CEO whose primary responsibility was to report to that board. This can be viewed as a gross dereliction of the board members’ fiduciary duties.
Based on the statements I have in my possession, none of the Council Members I interacted with have seen it fit to raise this matter in a Council meeting, despite my raising these concerns with them.
The Way Forward
I have therefore prepared, without prompting from the Council, my own personal account of my extraordinary frustrations with the President of the Association whom I consider to have failed in his primary responsibilities to exercise his fiduciary duty of care, duty of loyalty to the organization’s mission and vision, duty to act in good faith and duty of obedience to good governance principles.
I trust that you will objectively examine my submission as I outline in some detail in the attached submission how my tenure was beset with difficulties occasioned by a President who would stop at nothing to act as Executive President and violate almost every principle of good governance. His conduct is contrary to the 1997 Pickard Commission of Enquiry Recommendations and constitutes a failure to adhere to the widely accepted norm of reasonable separation between operational management and policy-making organs of the Association. I avail myself for any further engagement on this matter whilst I attend to clearing up the misrepresentations that have been promoted in the public domain.
Mr Dennis A. MUMBLE
*SAFA are yet to respond on the matter and FARPost will, in the spirit of fair play, publish their response.
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