Fortune Attorney Says NHA Needs To Be Accountable To Industry

'All we want is a yes or no'

Is the National Horseracing Authority of South Africa dragging its heels on the Andrew Fortune licence application? And should a process that effectively denies an individual the opportunity to earn a living in the only profession in which he is trained, take months of petulant power pondering and bureaucratic dilly-dallying?

When the 55 year old former SA Champion Jockey announced in February that he was shedding the kilo’s and working hard in a bid to recapture his glory years in a return to the saddle, the flamboyant son of the Cape Flats created a wave of excited anticipation amongst a racing public hungry for heroes, and with an edgy appetite to fire up their everyday entertainment with a real character.

Andrew Fortune – wants to ride again (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

The man born on the wrong side of the rails, who beat the mean streets of Elsies River and the dreaded demons of a variety of addictions, told the Sporting Post in February that he was more excited and motivated than he had been in the eight years since an injury ended his hopes of chasing a second national title.

But despite offers of rides and pledges of sponsorship from a variety of stakeholders, today Andrew Fortune is starting to feel like an unwitting victim of a corporate power-play in the NHA’s corridors of power.

So says his new Attorney, Heidi Barter, who told the Sporting Post on Sunday that the NHA appears to be stonewalling her client.

“It is not acceptable that our correspondence is ignored. We are well experienced in dealing with regulatory bodies, and understanding their associated red-tape processes. But the difference here is that the NHA is a private entity that seemingly believes that it is not accountable to the industry it serves, and is playing with a man’s life,” said the Attorney, who suggested that in this day and age, a meeting could be held on an online platform at short notice, with minimal inconvenience.

Heidi Barter – disappointed at NHA’s lack of urgency (Pic – Supplied)

“We are absolutely not demanding any special treatment. But it should not be necessary to wait months for a committee to sit, and then to ask us for more information, while kicking for touch. The NHA licencing committee convenes again in June, and what then? Do they play further games, just because they can with my client’s future? They have already been furnished with every conceivable piece of information that they could need. If there is anything else, then let’s meet and they can inform us. Alternatively, they should have the courage and common courtesy to furnish my client with a decision. They are, after all, servants of the industry,” she added.

When asked about the possibility of legal action, Mrs. Barter emphasized that pursuing legal recourse is always a final measure. She highlighted that this step can be readily avoided if the NHA simply cooperates with her office and client.

“Why resort to litigation when a straightforward yes or no response is all we seek? It incurs expenses, both for my client and for a regulatory body supported by the racing industry. If this becomes our client’s only recourse, it reflects a failure of leadership and suggests personal agendas overshadowing the greater good. At this juncture, it’s difficult to presume anything else!” she added.

‘The Candyman’, who handed in his licence in 2017, has left his young family behind in Australia as he looks to resurrect a career on African soil that captivated and entertained the SA racing public for close on 30 years.

Hazel Kayiya confirmed to the Sporting Post some months ago that the NHA had received an ‘informal enquiry’ on 17 February 2024 from Mr Fortune.

“Due to the short time available to consider this as the Board met on 18 February, it was decided to consider it at the next licensing meeting. All licence applications that are supported by the required documentation are considered at a licensing meeting which takes place every two months – next one is mid-April. If there is any outstanding documentation that is required, then the applicant will be notified of what is required so that the application can be assessed at the next licensing meeting,” she added.

When the board met last month, Andrew Fortune was asked for more information, and we are informed that he duly provided this.

Mrs. Barter asserts to the Sporting Post that it is long overdue for the judicial debate surrounding the applicability of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, 2000 (Act No. 3 of 2000) to the actions of the NHA, to be resolved.

“The statutory test used to determine whether the NHA actions are administrative action, is whether they are exercising a public power or performing a public function. How can their role as the sole regulatory body for horse racing in South Africa, tasked with issuing licenses and thereby restricting the public’s ability to freely participate in this industry, be perceived as anything other than an administrative action? PAJA seeks to protect us from unlawful, unreasonable and procedurally unfair administrative actions and decisions. It safeguards individuals and the public at large from actions by law enforcement officials that may be deemed unlawful, ego-driven, or overly controlling. I hope we don’t have to go that far, but if we do, it will without a doubt benefit the entire racing industry.”

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