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Being There

We’re about to close the door to 2013 and cross the threshold of 2014. With the modern electronic wizardry, it’s pretty difficult to miss anything, but for those who have not yet synched their Blackberrys, iPhones and Androids and uploaded the engagements for January 2014, I thought it worth a quick reminder that the NHA will be holding their One Hundred and Thirty Second Annual General Meeting at the usual venue of the NHA offices at Turffontein on Monday, 13 January 2014.

The meeting starts at 14:30 sharp. The preliminary notice was issued on 14 November 2013, along with an invitation to members to forward any proposals for inclusion on the agenda (deadline 2 December 2013).

Getting involved

I have to confess that I’m not generally one for getting too involved in admin unless there’s a good reason and while I was vaguely aware that the NHA AGM was coming up at some comfortably distant point in the future, I wasn’t terribly fussed either way. For a start, it’s always held in Johannesburg, which disagrees with my agoraphobic soul and secondly, well, admin is always rather tedious isn’t it and to be honest, as long as there’s no fuss and things generally seem to be ticking along, that seems fine for most people.

Of course the trouble with that sort of cavalier attitude is that it’s not terribly community spirited and apathy can also lead to some rather unexpected surprises. So I try and do my bit and keep up the side where I can. I received the notification for the previous (2013) AGM by post in late 2012 along with a proxy voting form, although no accompanying information as to what to vote on. A few enquiries later and I was directed to a copy of the latest Annual Report on the NHA website and was bemused to be informed that the minutes for the 16 January 2012 AGM (which members were requested to approve) would only be made available to members turning up for the 2013 meeting. Tres bizarre !

This year things are a bit more organised and all the relevant documentation has been made available on-line at the NHA website (www.hohrseracingauthority.co.za/pubs). There’s the notice of the AGM, a notice for a Special AGM and a Proxy voting form. Additionally, you can find a copy of the 14 January 2013 AGM Minutes on the tab on the left hand side of the page (marked Annual General Meetings) and a copy of the Annual Report and financials can be accessed at the bottom right hand side of the page if you scroll to the very bottom of the news items. For those who want to brush up on their NHA Rules or Constitution, these are included on the ‘Rules’ tab and the version dated 1 January 2013 seems to be the most complete, comprising 130 odd pages of the Rules followed by an additional 30 odd pages of the Constitution. So everything is nice and neatly accessible all in one place the way I like it.

Unfortunately I missed the boat for adding any agenda items this time (I thought it might be handy to rotate the venue for the AGM amongst the various race clubs) and for the most part, the finalised agenda is a pretty standard affair – considering and approving the previous set of minutes, annual report and financial statements, appointing auditors and the ubiquitous ‘Any Other Business’ that serial meeting attendees will be so familiar with. However, this year a number of folks have proposed some additional items and there is also the addition of a Special General Meeting directly after the ‘normal’ AGM.

While active participation may be considered ‘interfering’ in some quarters, I think taking an interest and making a contribution is admirable (it’s more than the rest of us have done anyway), so I did a quick ring around to see what the proposals are all about. I’ll deal with them in Agenda order.

Additional Agenda Items from Adv Maselle

Agenda item 5.1 is a proposal by Advocate Brett Maselle which reads as follows:-

“Based on the NHA’s functions, its objectives and its representations to members as well as to Parliament (in September 2013 by Mr D. Pillay and Mr R. Bruss that the NHA be granted statutory recognition):-
1. to consider whether the NHA exercises public powers and its conduct is sufficiently public in nature to warrant the application of the Promotion of Administration of Justice Act No 3 of 2000.
2. to consider whether it is appropriate for the NHA to continue to regulate horseracing in Zimbabwe especially when the NHA seeks to be regulated and recognized by the Parliament of South Africa, the latter having no territorial jurisdiction over Zimbabwe.”

I’m not terribly versed in legal speak, but essentially the first point questions the exact nature of the NHA’s role and responsibilities, whether they can be considered a public body and if so, whether the Promotion of Administration of Justice Act is applicable. The Act essentially exists to ensure that public bodies deal with members and interested parties fairly and in line with their rights according to our National Constitution to “promote an efficient administration and good governance; and create a culture of accountability, openness and transparency in the public administration or in the exercise of a public power or the performance of a public function, by giving effect to the right to just administrative action”. SAFA is a public body that might be considered a good equivalent example to the NHA.

It makes for quite an interesting point. Currently the NHA is not a company, so the Companies Act is not applicable. It is an Association which has a Constitution, which all members are subject to and therefore it is run on a contractual arrangement. The NHA licenses the Operators and according to provincial legislation, the Operators are bound by and subject to NHA rules (at least in theory, as Phumelela’s CEO controversially stated that the NHA has no jurisdiction over Phumelela). So it begs the question why the NHA was objecting to the Open Bet in Parliament?

The second part of Adv Maselle’s proposal deals with the recent representations to Parliament wherein one of the matters discussed was the possibility of the NHA being recognised and regulated by the Parliament of South Africa. Because South Africa is a sovereign state, our Parliament only has regulatory jurisdiction over South Africa. It has no legal authority over Zimbabwe and therefore should Parliament choose to recognise and regulate our NHA, Zimbabwe, its horses and its owners would no longer qualify to be regulated by the NHA. Given the implications, I think this is quite a significant discussion point.

Contribution by Mr Reid

5.2 is a proposal by Mr Steve Reid that the Board amend the rules to allow all members of the NHA free access to all racecourses in South Africa and to be issued with an NHA Identity card. Those are pretty self-explanatory. The request would have been redundant under the Club system where feature race owners were automatically granted access to the course on big race days.

However, our current system is structured in such a way that owners with feature runners have been forced to purchase tickets to big race meetings in order to watch their own horses run. Which given the blood, sweat, tears and cold hard cash it takes to get a horse to a big race (not to mention the fact that the Operators use that same horse to offer their betting product) seems a little, well, unfair really.

Proposals by Mr Mattheyse

Mr Mattheyse’s proposals are particularly interesting as he has suggested some alternative mechanisms for providing funding for the NHA (something of a bone of contention, as per the Chairman’s report). It would involve re-jigging a few things, but the ideas are sound and pave the way to an independently funded, self-sufficient NHA – something I think we all agree would be a win-win. His suggestions include channelling the annual bookmakers’ levies and unclaimed tote dividends and breakages (such as occurred in the recent Pick 6 debacle) to the NHA rather than to the Operators.

One might even argue that the nomination and acceptance monies currently channelled to the RA might be more usefully employed in keeping our regulators free and independent (subversive thinking, but consider the possibilities!). Furthermore, Mr Mattheyse argues that if the technology exists to make correct and exact payouts to punters, then Operators should consider doing so, rather than employing the current system of rounding. If the local supermarket can manage it, then it would seem within the scope of the Operator as well.

Contributions by Mr Kyriacou

Point 5.4 made by Mr Dimitri Kyriacou also pertains to promoting the NHA as a free and independent body. Mr Kyriacou has proposed calling a Special General Meeting to amend the Constitution to deny various entities entrenched seats on the board of the NHA in the interests of independence and impartiality. He argues that the NHA needs to be neutral in order to perform their function as an industry regulator which, as alluded to in the Chairman’s report, can prove a challenge when major role players not only hold the purse strings, but occupy driving seats on the board (as seen in the recent MR hike and subsequent reduction).

Special General Meeting

Mr Kyriacou’s proposal is directly countered by the NHA’s second notice about a Special General Meeting in which it is proposed that the Constitution (which currently allows for a maximum of 15 directors) be amended to extend the number to 16 in order to allow Kenilworth Racing an entrenched seat on their National Board. For those who are interested, the National Board of the NHA currently comprises Adv Altus Joubert (Chairman), Jonathan Witts-Hewinson, Etienne Braun, Cecil Byleveld, Rodney Trotter, Robin Bruss, Larry Wainstein, Susan Rowett, Graeme Hawkins, Rian du Plessis, Ashraf Mohammed, Roy Moodley, William Nsele, Denzil Pillay and David McGillivray.

Ask not what your NHA can do for you…

To use the old cliché, information is power. I don’t mean that in the context of trying to find means of exploiting the system. Really understanding something is the key to being able to use and enjoy it. The best way to understanding something is to participate and hopefully to contribute and improve it along the way.

The right to active participation is one of the key, hard-won values that our democratic government fought so hard for. Your vote is your opportunity to participate, contribute and effect change (or support the status quo!). I think there are some pertinent points being raised at the forthcoming AGM and that they deserve our interest and support. Members are encouraged to confirm attendance (or tender apologies) as soon as possible in order to assist the NHA in terms of seating and catering arrangements. For those who cannot attend in person, proxy voting forms are available for download on the NHA website. The AGM takes place on Monday, 13 January 2014 and starts at 14:30 sharp.

– Robyn Louw

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