JOHANNESBURG – Businesswoman Phindi Kema this week called for a cease-fire in the embattled horseracing industry, fresh from a victory in her complaint to the Public Protector that the privatization of the industry in the late 1990s had harmed in the industry.
Kema said Phumelela, which emerged as the major beneficiary from the privatisation of the industry, should not seek a judicial review of the Public Protector, but rather sit down with the industry to map the way forward.
“The industry needs certainty and we must avoid rushing to the courts because this will destroy the little value left in the industry. We should rather restructure the industry and ensure that it does not only survive but thrives,” Kema said.
“The industry is on its knees, more than 185 000 jobs have been lost in the industry in the past two decades while stud farms have gone from 1482 to just 162 today.”
The Public Protector’s investigation into the corporatisation of the racing industry in the late 1990s stemmed from complaints lodged by Kema and two others in 2012 and 2013.
The Public Protector last week sweeping recommendations, that if implemented is set to see horseracing in South Africa fundamentally change how it is operated.
The recommendations include an audit of all state-owned assets which were transferred to Phumelela for “a song” with a view to establishing their origin, value on transfer and ownership prior to transfer, as well as to establish whether they were utilised for the benefit of the horse racing industry and citizens who are affectionate about the sport of horse racing.
Phumelela in a statement said it is considering its options following the Public Protector’s release of her final report regarding an investigation into allegations of maladministration and improper conduct in connection with the corporatisation of the horseracing industry in South Africa.
South African horse racing is largely in the doldrums. The number of registered breeders of thoroughbreds decreased from 925 in 1998 to 453 in 2008, while the number of trainers declined from 204 in 1998 to 187 in 2009 reaching a low of 170 in 2005.
Kema said the horseracing industry had fallen way behind countries such as New-Zealand where the industry was thriving and laid the blame on the decision to put the industry in few hands.
“The assets of the industry should have never been in private hands, I would love to see a situation where the assets are under a trust with trustees being people who have the industry’s best interest at heart. The closure of racing courses across the country has meant that there are fewer racing opportunities,” she said.
Phumelela listed as a public company on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in 2002, in KZN Gold Circle is similar to Phumelela in that it is the result of the amalgamation of several racing clubs and organizations in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. It differs from Phumelela in that it is a non-profit Section 21 company.