The Lion roars once more

Former South Afircan Rugby Union president Brian van Rooyen has broken his silence.

The following is a press statement released by Van Rooyen on Thursday afternoon:

We refer to a recent press statement by SA Rugby, to recent statements by certain individuals and to a so called disciplinary hearing being held in Bloemfontein.

For some considerable time Mr van Rooyen has refrained from commenting on these matters in the press but can no longer stand by and allow such unwarranted attacks on him to go unanswered.

As usual, the SA Rugby press statement and the statements by these individuals on the matter are economical with the truth. We intend to set the record straight.

The first time we learned of the date of this so called hearing was through a phone call from a member of the press during the afternoon of Monday, 22 May 2006.

We wish to point out that at no stage did Mr van Rooyen or his legal advisors receive any notification that the disciplinary hearing was to be held on Tuesday, 23 May 2006.

In our view, this is a gross abuse of Mr van Rooyen’s rights to a fair hearing and administrative justice. For the person subject to a disciplinary hearing not to even be informed of the date of the hearing demonstrates a complete disregard for the principles of fairness and justice let alone of good governance.

This failure to inform us of the date of the hearing is particularly malicious, because Mr van Rooyen has always been fully prepared to participate in any properly constituted disciplinary hearing as articulated in our letter to this effect dated 14 April 2006. This so called disciplinary hearing was not properly constituted.

Mr van Rooyen’s attendance was also subject to the proviso that SARU covered his legal costs. This position has been made clear repeatedly in writing to SARU and the officials involved in the so called disciplinary hearing.

In its press statement SARU incorrectly conveys the impression that legal costs were the only reason why Mr van Rooyen was reluctant to participate in the so called disciplinary hearing. This is totally disingenuous and purposely misleading. They knew perfectly well that this was only one of a range of issues.

As has been repeatedly pointed out to SARU in correspondence from us, the process leading up to the so called disciplinary hearing has been characterised by a series of major irregularities. These irregularities relate to the appointment of the chairman, former Mr Justice Hefer, to preside over the hearing, the appointment of the prosecutor Advocate Nic Treurnicht and the selection of the venue for the enquiry.

Bloemfontein arbitrarily being chosen as a venue for a hearing by an organization based in Cape Town against an ex official based in Johannesburg is an example of the arrogance of the process. Most fundamentally, the investigation conducted by Adv. Jannie Lubbe (also based in Bloemfontein) which gave rise to the institution of the hearing was conducted in breach of the requirements of natural justice, which are guaranteed by clause 4.2 of the SARU Code of Conduct.

In particular, during that spurious investigation Mr van Rooyen was never asked for a response to the allegations against him. How can one conduct such an investigation without interviewing the “accused”?

SARU has now seen fit to purportedly rescind its resolution to cover Mr van Rooyen’s legal costs and then to proceed without informing us of the date of the hearing. No reasons have been provided for the decision to rescind the resolution previously made for the payment of Mr van Rooyen’s legal costs and we were not given an opportunity to make representations on this issue – hardly fair or reasonable.

But even if this decision were permissible, it in no way excuses SARU from at least informing us of the date of the disciplinary hearing. We have not waived any of our rights and do not understand how SARU could have proceeded without even notifying us.

We wish to add that in our view it is unreasonable and unfair to expect Mr van Rooyen to personally fund lawyers to defend his actions when he was the President of SARU. There is ample precedent for the principle that former officials should not have to personally bear legal costs arising out of enquiries into their conduct while in office. It would be grossly unfair and prejudicial for him to have to defend himself without adequate legal representation.

We are now awaiting the output of the so called disciplinary hearing and will then decide on an appropriate action despite impressions created to the contrary we want to state unequivocally that Mr van Rooyen was never a subject of a judicial enquiry or a criminal investigation and for that reason we reserve our right to seek redress in an appropriately constituted forum.

Finally, we point out that SARU no longer has any jurisdiction to conduct a disciplinary enquiry against Mr van Rooyen without his consent. He is no longer an office-bearer of SARU and the disciplinary hearing therefore ought properly to have fallen away when his term as President came to an end. Obviously there are other agendas afoot!

Mr van Rooyen had the following comment: “It is clear to me and my legal advisors that this whole process has been flawed from start to finish – its purpose being to put back the course of change in SA Rugby and to re-establish power once more in the hands of the “old guard”. If nothing else the composition of the members and witnesses of the “hearing” should attest to this. I have no intention of giving up the fight and will continue to struggle on for change and justice”.