Paul Munyuki Sports Reporter
SPORT, Arts and Culture Minister Andrew Langa was caught offside in his interpretation of the Zimbabwe Rugby Union constitution when he misled the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Sport into believing that the union’s controversial appointment of Colleen de Jong was above board.
Langa leapt to the defence of the ZRU when he appeared in the August House but it has since emerged that the Minister got it wrong as the union’s constitution is clear on how vice-presidents who join the rest of the leadership on the board of directors are elected.
De Jong was unconstitutionally appointed onto the ZRU board by president John Falkenberg as a replacement to former women’s rugby chairperson Aisha Tsimba who had resigned following her appointment to the Sports Commission board.
In response to a question from member of the House of Assembly Fani Munengami who is also the acting chairperson of the committee on why the ZRU decided to appoint de Jong — who then was not a board member — to the post of vice president, Langa defended the rugby body and claimed they had acted within their mandate.
“The deputy chairperson (vice-president) of the rugby (sic) was not appointed but instead she was co-opted. I would like to believe that in their constitution there is that section,” said Langa.
But a look at the ZRU constitution shows that the Minister who is normally advised by the Sports Commission was offside.
According to the ZRU constitution the executive board was supposed to have voted at the annual meeting for Tsimba’s replacement or called for an extra-ordinary general meeting where they are supposed to fill in at least three vacancies
Section 23.2.1 of the ZRU constitution, states that the union should have picked one of their serving board members at that time to take over from Tsimba as it reads: “Any casual vacancy occurring in the position of Director (elected board member) may be filled by the remaining Directors (elected board members already in office) from among appropriately qualified persons”.
At the time of her contentious appointment onto the ZRU board as vice-president, de Jong was the Under-20 administration and team manager, which automatically disqualified her from holding any post within the ZRU board as any one of the serving board members were supposed to fill the post left vacant following Tsimba’s resignation.
The ZRU has been accused of not following the laid down fundamental principles of governing the game and the matter has also been a concern for the parliamentary portfolio committee.
The ZRU constitution only allows for the appointment of one person onto the board, this being the treasurer who is an honorary director given that it is a post that requires specialist skills or professional training.
“The appointed directors (treasurer) may have specific skills in commerce, finance, marketing, law or business generally or such other skills which complement the board composition,” reads section 23.1.3 of the constitution.
The ZRU board is made up of the president, two vice-presidents (one north and one south), chairperson of women’s rugby, president of the Zimbabwe Rugby Referee’s Society, head in charge of National Association of Secondary Heads, head in charge of National Association of Primary Heads, director of rugby, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Rugby Players Association, affiliated provinces, treasurer and a general manager who does not have voting powers.
As the administration manager of the Young Sables it caused a stir when de Jong was catapulted into the second in command of the ZRU and also appointed as executive vice-president — a post that does not exist in their constitution.
Section 21 of the constitution goes on to say that an extra-ordinary meeting comprising of at least two thirds (or 66 percent) of ZRU affiliated members to fill at least three vacant posts that might have arisen in the executive committees mandated by the ZRU to perform a certain task.
These committees include that of women’s rugby that is headed by Abigail Mnikwa who by virtue of her being in charge of women’s rugby automatically becomes a board member.
“The National Executive Board or two thirds of ZRU affiliate members may convene an Extra–Ordinary General meeting (hereinafter referred to as the EGM) with the mandate (amongst others) to fill in vacant posts in the National Executive Committee (not vacant posts in the board) in the event that there are at least three vacancies. These appointments are made by the National Executive Board.”
However, none of the above conditions were met and this means de Jong is unconstitutionally holding office and surprisingly at last year’s annual meeting, not even one of the board members or Harare Province — who were meant to find their own replacement — were given a chance to do so.
During her time as the Under-20 manager where she worked under the chairmanship of former Sables winger Aaron Jani, de Jong ran the junior team in a fashionable manner that helped Zimbabwe make it for the Junior World Rugby Trophy three years in a row but this is not enough to qualify her to be a board member.