Southern Kings power struggle

Bantwini Matika
Bantwini Matika
Image: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images

A power struggle for control of the Isuzu Southern Kings has erupted after board member Bantwini Matika blasted the franchise for bringing in former Springbok coach Nick Mallett to help select a new coach.

Matika, in a Facebook rant on Wednesday evening, labelled Mallett a product of racist South African rugby and said his help was not needed to find a replacement for Deon Davids.

On Thursday, he also accused Kings chair Loyiso Dotwana of not knowing rugby and relying on what he said were white liberal brains to help him.

In response, Dotwana said an inquiry into Matika’s outburst had started.

Matika, who is also EP Rugby Union deputy president, lashed out at the Kings owners because, as a board member, he had not been consulted about Mallett and had read about his involvement in the newspaper.

“We are testing whether the EP Rugby Union, as a minority shareholder, is significant or insignificant,” Matika said “This is a test case.”

The Kings have a 74% share and the EPRU 26% in the PRO14 franchise.

On Tuesday, Kings high-performance director Robbi Kempson said Mallett would be assisting in the process to find a new head coach.

Mallett also held a two-day management culture-building session with the Kings.

In an interview on Thursday, Matika said: “After a number of decisions taken by the new owners, we realised this was not what we had been expecting. This was a different animal, but under the name of a black consortium.

“The first strategic appointment was a white man by the name of Robbi Kempson.

“We debated around that in the board and we were not happy.

“We raised reasons and put up proper arguments that this was not right.

“We challenged this but we were bulldozed because they knew what they wanted. “He was head-hunted. “But we said maybe things are going to get better and let’s accept Robbi and all work together.

“Then, in another strategic position, white lady [Leigh Heard] who comes from the Sharks was appointed as chief operating officer. Those were two crucial appointments which demonstrated clearly that we are not moving in the right direction.

“Robbi is the man who is influencing our decision-makers and leaders and they listen to Robbi only.

“We had to fight that. “I personally know that the chairman of the board, Loyiso Dotwana, does not know about rugby.

“He needed brains to help him about rugby.

“Unfortunately for him, he relies on white liberal brains to support him and we are contesting that.

“I am making sure that when he gets a white voice in the left ear he must get a black voice on the right.

“But it is difficult for us because there is Rory Stear [deputy chair] in one ear and Robbi Kempson in the other ear.

“So we have to shout [to get] attention as a black voice and we are sick and tired of that.

“The bad thing was the way the black coaches, Deon Davids and Chumani Booi, were treated by this franchise – specially Deon, who worked against all odds.

“The last straw was reading that Nick Mallett was here in Port Elizabeth.

“The chairperson has my phone number, but I did not have a clue about that.

“I want to make sure as a board member [that] the committee that will be established to recruit is 70% black and 30% white.

“We will look for black rugby brains – we do have it here in the Eastern Cape.”

In his Facebook posts, Matika wrote: “As a board member of the Kings I don’t think it’s true that we need help from the racist Mallett to find a suitable coach for our team.

“Mallett is not suitable to help us and look for a coach who will be totally dedicated to build a totally transformed Kings team.

“Mallett will never support our transformation agenda and [is] therefore ill-equipped to choose an appropriate coach for the Kings.

“The board has not made any decision on the selection process and the kind of candidate we need as Kings to demonstrate to the country what needs to be done in our franchise.

“I am not going to collapse and die because of institutional racism in rugby.

“The worst I can get is to be booted out.

“F**k them all, they can go to hell.

“As long as I am still in, confrontation is going to be the order of the day.

“I am not into this for personal gain, let’s rock and roll.

“For those of you who don’t know, rock and roll is a black man’s invention.”

Screengrabs from Facebook
Screengrabs from Facebook

In his response, Dotwana said an internal process had started to deal with the issue.

“The series of Facebook posts from Mr Bantwini Matika are completely unacceptable and do not represent the views or position of the board of the Kings,” he said.

“We have already initiated a process to deal with this unfortunate incident internally.

“We have previously communicated that the Kings are looking to appoint a new head coach.

“As a result, the board is assembling a reputable panel of experts to assist in the interviewing of prospective candidates for the position.

“However, this panel has not yet been finalised, but it must be pointed out that it will be chaired by the chairman of the board.

“We believe that Nick Mallett has the right expertise to assist us in selecting a coach who will help build a professional and competitive rugby team for the future.

“The Kings are the first black-owned rugby franchise in South Africa and, as such, are fully committed to the transformation of the sport in the country.”