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Winds Of Change Need To Blow!

Stop expressing your concern in whispers!

I have just finished reading the report of Mr Chris Van Niekerk’s address to guests who attended the cocktail party to mark the opening of the Cape Premier Yearling Sale, writes Garrick Bergh in the Sporting Post Mailbag.

Harry the Horse at the CTS March sale

Chris Van Niekerk (left) and Markus Jooste (rght) seen with Bernard Kantor

It took me a while to suppress a strong urge to vomit.

Read the report here

Whether it be Phumelela, Kenilworth Racing, CTS or whoever; the communication style is almost always the same – the press release is inevitably anonymous so one can only conclude that it is yet another piece of  carefully manicured ‘spin doctoring’.

I note that it drew ‘several cheers’ from the audience.

I can only conclude that those cheering were the individuals who have benefitted handsomely from the somewhat ‘odd’ manner in which CTS have conducted the sales process since its inception.

We have grown used to Jooste and his sycophants occupying the prime table at CTS. I, for one, was always quite surprised that they didn’t strike up ‘Hail To The Chief’ when he entered and ask everyone to stand. 

The individuals who cheered have no doubt also sometimes participated in whatever ‘whispering campaign’ might be doing the rounds yet have usually evaporated like the morning mist when asked to publicly stand up and be counted.

Early in the piece the writer refers to ‘……the loss of Markus Jooste’.

Let me be quite clear: Markus Jooste is no loss. His dethroning could be better described as the lancing of a festering, septic boil which has infected almost every organisation over which he had influence and control. The eventual fallout and wreckage will be staggering both for Steinhoff and racing. Yet he skulks away like Osama Bin Laden. What courage & moral fortitude the man displays!

Mr Van Niekerk did not take long to get into his stride; dragging everyone from Napoleon to Elvis & John Lennon into his address. In the case of Napoleon I cannot comment as I have to rely on recorded history for what I know. And history, as we well know, is written by the winners.

But I have lived in the time of both Elvis & John Lennon and they left indelible musical legacies. Markus Jooste has left a trail of destruction. I’m battling to see the correlation. It would perhaps be better that he be linked with Bernie Madoff & Enron rather than be mentioned in the same sentence alongside two of popular music’s great sons.

He then describes the CTS sale as ‘iconic’. If this is how he sees a small agricultural sale at the tip of Africa then he surely must see Robert Mugabe & Jacob Zuma as ‘statesmen’.

Much like any good television evangelist he does not forget to pepper the address with the term ‘humbly’ whilst also throwing in a reference to Chinese Astrology for the benefit of those who believe that life without a good measure of superstition is no life at all.

As for the support which he ‘humbly’ refers to…….well, a number of obvious realities seem to have completely eluded him. Firstly – an independent ‘supporter’ of this sale consigns a lot after a very long, arduous process whilst incurring enormous expense along the way. It is simply not viable to simply withdraw at the 11th hour unless the sale is actually suspended or cancelled. Secondly – a large number of lots were consigned by an establishment which, to put it delicately, could best be described as yet another Jooste stepchild. They were never going anywhere but to CTS.

Chris Van Niekerk embracing change?

Mr Van Niekerk ends by referring to the pressing need to finally conclude protocols to simplify and hasten the creation of the long awaited channel to export bloodstock quickly and more efficiently than is the case at present. And, might we hope, also bring some in to race here!

Does this perhaps at least add a hint of substance to the ‘We have a strategy’ comment we have been hearing from our leaders for a number of years? And what impact might this have on the local racing product? That’s an entirely separate subject for another time.

This speech merely serves to remind me that South African racing is well and truly captured as it stands today.

Mildly interested people who don’t see the connection between the Steinhoff disaster and racing miss this important point : They were/are both run with almost identical management styles & cultures. In the case of racing all of the ‘Jooste people’, many of whom were arbitrarily and irregularly co-opted (read : handpicked to do their masters’ bidding) are still in office – from the NHA to the Racing Association.

Messrs Kantor & Van Niekerk himself, to name but two very senior & visible relics of the Jooste era, continue to hold high office in this sport despite their alarming closeness to Jooste.

Bernard Kantor

Bernard Kantor

After Jooste’s dramatic departure I expected both of these individuals to spend some time airbrushing themselves out of any link with him. To the contrary – Kantor simply stepped into Jooste’s shoes at Phumelela whilst blithely also presiding over a bank which loaned nearly R300 million to Steinhoff over and above its historical exposure to the group mere weeks before its unmasking. The same stunt was employed with Wiese at Steinhoff and look how that turned out. Will Kantor be bringing more of the same to Phumelela?

I trust the Investec shareholders are not going to be as supine and accommodating as racings’ appear to be!

Both Van Niekerk & Kantor were all of friends, racing partners & co-directors with Jooste for many years and virtually joined at the hip. They would have observed his ruthless, bullying and often cavalier business style at close quarters. As directors they clearly both endorsed and profited from his actions. Unless they were fast asleep they cannot say they were not aware of or, at least, mildly concerned at some of the developments?

The inevitable ‘I didn’t know’ excuse will not wash and was well and truly worn out 70 years ago at Nuremberg. At the very least they should have fallen on their swords at Phumelela. I see little or no prospect of this sport being restored to something approaching credibility unless the entire coterie of Jooste accomplices and appointees removes itself from office.

We have a glorious window of opportunity to restore racing to the service of its participants, break the grip of the self-serving and opportunistic inner circle that presently manages it and who have siphoned millions out of it since corporatisation.

It won’t happen as long as people such and you and I remain silent and only express our concern and discontent in whispers.

As an insignificant flea on the back of the dog (SA racing really is a mangy dog right now!) I hold no fears of being ostracised, marginalised or even spuriously warned off. But I would be ashamed to sit on my hands without protesting when so many remain silent or restrict their protests to whispers.

I can speak only because they never bought me and never will. If you remain silent then I must assume you took the 30 silver pieces.

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18 comments on “Winds Of Change Need To Blow!

  1. Viqui Stevenson says:

    Thank you, Garrick, well said!!

  2. BEATLE says:

    Great article

  3. Brad says:

    Brutally honest and well written ????

  4. Roderick Mattheyse says:

    Garrick, when did you give the 30 pieces back so as to free yourself to protest so much?

    Thanks for reviving my interest.

  5. Don says:

    now THAT’S what I call frank! spade is a spade is a spade.

  6. Jess K says:

    Well written article and pretty well spot on as to the capture of horseracing by Jooste and his accomplices (notably the RA and Phumelela), while cheered on by his sycophants.
    Those “whispers”, however, must have been thoughts only, as they were never heard, especially not by those few souls who publically stood up to the tyrant and his enforcers, even taking them to court and despite being discredited threats of grievous bodily harm, discredited, ostracized, ridiculed and discriminated against never waivered in their quest for the truth and justice. Trainer(s) even told, “no Jooste horses while you have those undesirables in your stable”, Representatives of horseracing publically stating on tv and elsewhere that these rebels should be kicked out of horseracing as they are “not good for racing” and that they have a “hidden agenda”. Hell, even the former Phumelela and RA Director, Alec Hogg (who sat alongside Jooste and Van Niekerk) got into the act calling them, “barbarians at the gates”.
    How the wheel has turned !
    Maybe we need a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” for horseracing !

  7. Harry says:

    Wow. No changes will occur as long as the “captured” have financial benifits. The majority of the silent protesters will continue to protest in whispers. A great literally piece, but, what are your suggestions to enable change?

  8. Truth be said…you die by your sword. Who’s NEXT?

  9. AB de Villiers says:

    Being involved in racing from early age through uncles that were trainers and breeders and even owning a few at one stage myself,I learned quick that the little guys in the industry will always battle.From waiting for yearling inspectors with 12h00 apointment and arriving 21h00 at night to quickly check your horses with a torch after spending whole day at one of the more famous breeders without even a call,we did not shout from side line to those who were in charge.After all we were in the game because we love it and not to be noticed for complaining.While i do not condone Mr Joostes actions,I cannot see why rage against Mr Kantor and Van Niekerk will help the cause of horseracing.Nobody seems to have complained when the famous or by now infamous coulours of the Joostes and even that of Mr Kantor or Van Niekerk were representing South Africa abroad showing off our South African talent.
    Shouting from sideline never really help a team to win(except Province).Yes one can get frustrated,but the love of the sport and your horse should be the focus,and if by chance you get to be one of the administraters and offer your time to the sport,make sure it is in positive manner to build and help,not to EFFsorry meant to say break down.

    1. Barry Irwin says:

      Perhaps if you had not been on the sidelines all of these years and actually participated down in the trenches, you might have a better appreciation about where the anger comes from.

      1. AB de Villiers says:

        Mr Irwin and Mr Jayes,do we dare to compare the situation to the current Zuma debacle?Some one is holding a gun to someones head?Who is covering for who?
        So many unhappy,but nothing really gets done.Like its mentioned,maybe the gun went off now and some heads were blown off,and maybe,just maybe things might start to change now.All the best.

    2. Ian Jayes says:

      AB de Villiers must not be under any illusions, whatever they did, they did for themselves and their best interests, both here and overseas.

      When Phumelela took millions of public money and did not use it for the purposes for which it was granted, but to enrich their shareholders, their Board and the RA rejected any attempts for the situation to be redressed.

      I was very outspoken about it and myself and a number of trainers took the matter up to try and get redress

      We went to Attorney John Cuzen and from his office where Advocates John Beasley and Nigel Riley, together with Attorney Rappoport were present, Attorney Rappoport telephoned Bernard Kantor in London. It was reported by Attorney Rappoport that Bernard Kantor said: “It looks like we should and will have to repay the money”.

      He must have been overruled by other Board members, because the money was never repaid

      The fact that Rev Alan Boesak went to prison for not using a grant for the purposes for which it was granted, did not seem to worry the RA or the directors of Phumelela and the Phumeela situation was worse, because it was not private money but public money that was involved.

      This is the kind of arrogance that racing has had to contend with and the only way forward is to rid horseracing of the people who have this mindset and hold such views.

  10. Rian says:

    Been checking every day and eventually found a magic piece put together by Garrick
    A breath of fresh air after listening to James and Laf waffling on about Van Niekerks speech

    1. David James says:

      Ed – Please send a copy to Paul and James

      1. Editor says:

        They read the this site

  11. Barry Irwin says:

    Nice job and likely helpful for the uninitiated. Behind the scenes there is plenty of action, as folks that I consider to be the rightful stakeholders of the South African racing and breeding industry are busy preparing for a post-Jooste world. There is plenty of conversation about doingwhatever it takes to rid racing’s institutions of the influence of Mr. Jooste and his closest cronies. I think that a lot of breeders have remained silent in the public arena until after the CTS sale. Now that this event has taken place I think we can expect to see some movers and shakers reclaim what they think has been taken away from them. I came over here not only to show my support for the industry by buying some yearlings, but to see what I could do to assist the leaders in our sport. I am very encouraged by what I have seen and heard. Just because very little has appeared in the press about what these stakeholders have in mind or what their feelings are about the Jooste Era does not mean that good things and excellent planning are not being created for the future.

    1. Michele says:

      That is very encouraging to hear!

  12. Mieks says:

    Brilliant article and very informative about CTS. Knowing absolutely nothing about horse racing, I am intrigued to say the least. Kantor takes over from Jooste as Chairman of Phumelela (from what I read questions are being raised about them too…); and he is managing director at Investec. Investec in turn sponsors a number of races. Is there not conflict of interest here?

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