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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