South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) President Gideon Sam has expressed surprise after the country’s Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa labelled him "disrespectful".
During a meeting discussing last year’s inquiry into SASCOC, Xasa claimed Sam "does not respect political authority", it has been reported.
It comes after Sam pushed back against several recommendations for change made by the inquiry, which found SASCOC to be factional and dysfunctional, whilst also claiming the body fails to meet governance compliance standards and wastes money.
Among the changes recommended by the Zulman Inquiry - which also labelled Sam’s leadership style as dictatorial - include a suggestion that the President should be elected by an independent committee and not the SASCOC Council, that Board members should waive membership of any other national sports federations they belong to and that terms for Board members should be reduced from three four-year stints to two.
The governing body has been given a deadline of April 30 to assure the South African Government that it will make the recommended changes, but instead Sam has challenged many of them, which has led to Xasa’s claim of disrespect.
"We note that there is disagreement with the Minister on these policy and constitutional matters," SASCOC said in s statement.
"In order to move forward we must have a constructive dialogue with the Ministry on how we can implement the areas of agreement, clarify the areas of disagreement and find solutions."
They added SASCOC will work to convene an "urgent" meeting with Xasa to discuss their disagreements whilst continuing to address "issues of non-compliance" on corporate governance.
In a defiant statement SASCOC added though, that they have been implementing changes off their own back for some time.
"We wish to also state categorically that we began a process of organisational renewal and austerity measures, without having to be cajoled by anyone else to do so, as early as April 2017," SASCOC said.
"We decided to start the implementation of the austerity measures in the interest of the organisation."
SASCOC added the changes they are already making, aim to improve financial viability, "regain organisational relevance" and fix corporate governance.
"Once again, we are kindly asking the Minister to meet with us urgently so we can bring these matters to conclusion and bring up to date the action we have taken to address the corporate governance issues raised in the report and resolve the points of difference on the policy and constitutional issues," the said.
Accusations of disrespect are not Sam’s only concern, as a former SASCOC media partner recently filed for the body’s liquidation.
Highbury Media claims to be owed ZAR4.7 million (£269,300/$348,900/€306,200), saying SASCOC has not paid them for 10 months.