Following the correspondence and happenings over the weekend in this fast-moving debate, the Board has engaged in several conversations with Senior Management and the Golf Committee. We also remain guided by the Club Management Association of South Africa (CMASA) and GolfRSA.
We have considered the various views brought forward by members, and are grateful for your contribution and participation.
Last week, we sought a legal opinion from Simbithi Eco-Estate’s legal counsel, Cox Yeats Attorneys. Below is a brief synopsis of the comprehensive opinion furnished by Ms. Lazelle Paola:
“The purpose of the regulations is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by restricting the movement of persons….It is against this background that the regulations must be interpreted.”
“Golf is a sport which, in its regular form, is played in organised groups. Regulation 33 (1) (e) must be read with regulation 39 which provides for the closure of sports grounds and fields, which a golf course must certainly be. This further affirms that the playing of golf, at least in its conventional group format, is not permitted at present under Alert Level 3.”
Ms. Paola references a letter addressed by the Director-General: Sport, Arts and Culture to the CEO of GolfRSA, which confirms the resumption of play by some golf estates is in direct contravention of the regulations and constitutes an offence. You may read the full letter, here. It concludes, as such:
“Whilst we fully understand the impact the pandemic is having on your code of sport and the sporting sector as a whole we must, however be reminded that the safety and protection of human life at this time is of paramount importance.”
GolfRSA issued a statement in response, on Monday, noting the decision of certain golf estates to re-open their golf courses: “The actions of these estates and facilities has potentially put the re-opening of the entire golf industry at risk.” You may read the statement, here.
Ms. Paola further notes the “raid” of two prominent golf courses in Gauteng over the weekend. Our Board is also aware that two well-known courses within the province have back-tracked on their original decision to re-open, and are now closed.
We also sought clarity on the consequences the Board of Directors would potentially face, should we decide to re-open the golf course. Ms. Paola indicated that our Directors “expose themselves and the Club to criminal liability” – this renders us liable on conviction to a “fine or imprisonment not exceeding six months or to both such fine and imprisonment if [we] open the golf course and permit golf to be played at present.” Further, we are at risk of breaching our fiduciary duty and being held personally liable for any losses sustained by the Club, should we elect to re-open the Course.
She also cautioned that members who choose to play golf are also potentially liable for arrest and detention under regulation 37 (2) “for participating in a prohibited gathering”.
Members, it is against this background that the Board has decided not to re-open the Simbithi golf course at this time. We hear your frustration and understand you are eager to get back out onto the greens. We ask that you trust us to engage with the relevant bodies and to manage this in a manner that protects you, our staff and the Club, as a whole.
Chairman, Justin Clarke