Uneasy sleeps the head that wears the crown. This has never been truer in South African horseracing as the spark of the Maselle – RA Bonus challenge spirals into a raging inferno that threatens the very credibility and existence of some of our major role players.
We believe it incumbent on both Phumelela and the National Horseracing Authority to issue statements before close of business today and clarify their positions in the matter.
The harsh reality is that no matter what those in power may believe, no man or single group of individuals owns the sport of horseracing. But who can really blame those in authority from thinking otherwise? After all, the divide between the boardrooms and the coal-face is wider than the Grand Canyon and entitlement, complacency and assumption are toxic bed partners.
The fundamentals in this case have switched from the essence of the RA Bonus challenge to a matter of principle. It is surely the almost arrogant dismissal of Maselle’s original petition that irks and motivates right now, more than anything else?
Chairman of the National Horseracing Authority, Jonathan Witts-Hewinson has a second chance to make good and show that the organisation he represents is not just a toy remote-control fish in a giant pond of bottom-feeders. The answers and transparency that have been requested for so long are well past their sell-by date and the game’s stakeholders and investors will be demanding the action that is due to them.
It is also evident again that for too long now, the potentially positive and constructive role of the media in educating and informing Joe Public has been stymied by an arrogant stonewalling and lack of recognition by our industry leaders towards one of the basic cornerstones of good public relations and bastions of credibility, communication.
So true also when one reflects on Leonardo da Vinci’s suggestion that all our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions. Most of the time we are forced to second guess and nibble on half-baked slices of a poisonous cake.
The question on many people’s lips, will no doubt be whether the Maselle expose’ is the final straw that breaks the camel’s back and shatters the unholy silence and power games of the sinister ‘old boys club’ that controls the light switches in the corridors of power?
Or are these simply those nasty home-baked Da Vinci perceptions that we refer to earlier? After all, should we not be thinking on these lines?
There is no question that the Racing Association have improved the on-course experience and done plenty of good. Their winning owner bonus scheme was also a well- intended effort to create positivity and hype up the winning experience. We have all seen the smiles and happiness around the big cardboard cheque, the gifts and the pretty dolls in the post-race formalities. But was it done legitimately and did it discriminate and infringe upon the rights of those who chose not to participate? Or was it maybe really just a grand scheme to swell the coffers of the Racing Association?
We also have had sight of an email allegedly from the CEO of South Africa’s biggest horseracing operator, which shows an alarming lack of comprehension and acceptance of the role of the National Horseracing Authority in relation to its supervisory and policing authority over the operator.
The NHA is tasked with maintaining the integrity of the sport. How does it do that if Phumelela doesn’t play ball?
What a different ending this story may have had if Messrs Du Plessis and Wainstein had chosen rather to have reacted like men with nothing to hide? Men that just wanted the best for horseracing and who were willing to embrace the opportunity to clear the air and offer the olive leaf?
Instead they chose to take the high moral ground and the advice of their highly paid lawyers. The same lawyers that no doubt advised and assisted in the recent application to the Competition Commission with the takeover of Western Cape Racing?
Oscar Wilde said : “The optimist sees the doughnut, the pessimist sees the hole.”
Are we taking in calories or just falling deeper?
Time will tell.