The Sunday Mail
Prominent lawyer Gerald Mlotshwa was last week thrust at the helm of the SRC board.The Sunday Mail Sports Editor, Petros Kausiyo, caught up with him to discuss his mandate in the sport regulatory body
Q: Take us through the feeling of being appointed to head the SRC Board?
A: I was humbled. Minister Coventry had long selected her board members last year. In fact, she had already spoken to each and every one of us. Originally, she intended to announce the new SRC board at the Annual National Sports Awards in March. However, the vetting process had not yet been completed, even though most of the current board was at the awards ceremony as special guests of the Minister, seated at a table near hers.
There had not been mention of a chairperson at that stage. However, on 29th May, I was watching my son playing hockey for his school team when a message came through from the Minister. She was asking if I could take her call. The Minister expressed faith and confidence in me, and then asked if I was prepared to chair the board. You don’t say no to Africa’s greatest Olympian!
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the incoming Board?
A: Changing the mindset of national sports associations. Many of them are operating like charity organizations. Sport has evolved over the years. It is no longer a largely amateur undertaking. It is beyond professional now. Sport is a business, big business. That’s why major sporting codes like Fifa, the International Cricket Council and World Rugby are run like businesses. We need to get to that stage, starting from the SRC itself, which must set the standard for the various associations and disciplines falling under its jurisdiction.
Q: Some people might know your name more from legal circles than sport, just a brief resume of your involvement with sporting disciplines?
A: Titan Law has been involved in sport for over five years. Our first major undertaking was sponsoring the Bulawayo Metropolitan Province Cricket league during its 2014/2015 season. During 2015, we moved into Polo sponsorship. Today we are the major sponsors for the Polo Association of Zimbabwe. I was admitted as a patron of the association earlier this year. Polo is our biggest sponsorship program in Zimbabwe. This year, the Zimbabwean side will play Kenya and also possibly host the South Africa A team. Titan Law Zimbabwe will compete in the Africa Cup at Inanda Club, Sandton, where I am a member.
I was flattered when Harare Polo Club made me an honorary life member of the club recently.
With rugby, we formed the Sables Trust in 2016 to help the national men’s side with everything from finance to logistics and planning. This year, the trust, underwritten largely by Zertteuw Resources, a client of mine, as well as Portnex International and the firm, ensured the participation of the Zimbabwe Academy in the SuperSport Challenge. Approximately 40 players and their technical staff have been based in Cape Town over the last 10 weeks or so. The national side is on a rebuilding phase and the trust is deeply involved with this process.
The Titan Law Tag-rugby tournament caters annually for over 300 kids ranging from five to 12 years of age. We have been involved in this tournament, run by former Sable Douglas Trivella and his wife Shae, for six years. We will continue to support this initiative.
Outside of these disciplines, we are involved in assisting various schools from a sponsorship perspective – Peterhouse with their tour to Portugal last year. This year we have been involved with the Falcon College first team cricket’s tour and will also help with St John’s Prep school’s hockey tour to South Africa this year. Over the years, we have supported Chisipite Junior School’s annual Family Fun Run. We have also taken on another rugby sponsorship with a local school slated for July this year.
From a golfing perspective, we have over the years been involved with the Matabeleland Nomads Annual Charity Tournament, and will continue to support this noble event. We support individual athletes in their various disciplines as well as the National Arts gallery.
Q: You have a blend of administrators on your board, some of them experienced. To what extent could this make your task easier?
A: The entire board is made up of accomplished individuals. The Minister must be commended for appointing what someone said to me is a very corporate sector board. We are all very motivated and looking forward to delivering on our mandate. The board will not operate as a one-man show.
Indeed, the strength of character of its various individuals will not allow for this anyway. Our first board meeting is slated for this coming week. I had a meet and greet with all the staff earlier in the week, and then a briefing on pertinent issues by the director-general of the SRC. That meeting will set the pace for the rest of the year.
Q: Contracts of directors, sports development and finance, expired two years ago. Why are they still at work or when will they be terminated, if at all?
A: I am already fully briefed on these issues. They are part of the agenda for next week’s board meeting. I cannot comment further than that.
Q: The pair has been part of the senior management responsible for the poor performance of the organisation. Could it be time up for them now?
A: It would be unfair for me to comment on this allegation at this point. But I am sure the board will look at all these issues objectively.
Q: What is your take on suggestions that the SRC needs a director sports development with a proven track record in running national sports associations to compliment the board, especially in view of the fact that the DG has no previous experience with administering NSAs?
A: I have a lot of confidence in the new DG. I have worked closely with him before when he was still the Permanent Secretary of the SRC’s parent Ministry. Nonetheless, the structure of the SRC and its various divisions will be something that will be looked at closely. Bold decisions will be made to ensure that its operations are aligned to the Minister’s vision, which she has been kind enough to share with us in the previous months leading to our appointment.
Q: With the challenges in the economy, how will the board persuade the corporate world to invest in sport sponsorship?
A: As indicated earlier, sporting codes should run themselves in a disciplined and professional manner. The approach should be business like. It is never helpful to approach potential sponsors with a begging bowl. Codes must learn to market themselves to the corporate world.
You cannot do that if your internal processes are always tainted with controversy and scandals, or you have the wrong people involved in the administration of that sporting discipline for selfish reasons. Corporates don’t want to be tainted with that nonsense. No one will put money or associate themselves with an association or discipline that cannot produce accounting records, or explain how its administrators are appointed, or one that does not have a strategic plan on what they hope to accomplish over a set period of time, etcetera.
You need to behave like a serious business to attract the necessary finance. Sponsorship is not charity work. It’s an investment from a corporate. And like most investments, a return is expected. This also applies to the SRC. The challenges in the economy are neither here or there.
Q: How will the board deal with bodies like ZOC, whose elections were tainted in controversy?
A: Allegations of this nature will be dealt with objectively and where the facts are established, I can assure you that this new board will act in a swift and decisive manner.
Q: What is the message to the associations that have been failing to observe basic corporate governance tenets such as staging annual meetings, holding elections when the cycle is due and producing audited accounts?
A: They must watch out!
Q: The Annual Sports Awards, the National Youth Games and the National Paralympic Games are some of the SRC events that have been a huge farce, what are some of the expectations that the sporting fraternity can have on you in terms of redressing such anomalies?
A: There will be a total rebranding of these events. The process has already started, and the board will give further direction in this respect.