Huge headache awaits Cheeky Watson if he doesn’t cough up R5m
Ex-EP Rugby boss vows to pay struggling former players, but his lawyer has clammed up on where he'll get the cash
Disgraced Eastern Province rugby president Cheeky Watson has promised to pay his struggling former players R5m in cash in the next four months – but the source of the money remains anyone’s guess.
And if Watson – who is also due back in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court on August 5 on charges of fraud and money laundering related to the alleged siphoning off of Integrated Public Transport System funds – fails to cough up the money in time, he faces a far greater financial burden, with judgment to be taken against him for more than R23m.
Asked where Watson, 64, planned to get the money at such short notice, his lawyer, Danie Gouws, said he was not prepared to discuss his client’s personal assets in public.
Gouws said Watson, whose brother is state capture-accused Gavin Watson, had offered to pay the R5m out of the goodness of his heart and because he felt it was the right thing to do.
The order was made in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Tuesday after the former rugby boss consented to judgment against him for R23.4m if he did not come up with the R5m, in addition to all legal costs, before July 19.
The group of Kings players had gone after Watson, as well as then EP rugby CEO Charl Crous, and former directors Shelley-Ann Baatjies and Vernon Stuurman, in their personal capacities, for the recovery of salaries owed to them after the liquidation of Eastern Province Rugby (Pty) Ltd failed to put much back into their pockets.
They said EP Rugby’s failure to pay up had placed a great financial burden on them, with some players unable to buy food for their families.
EP had accumulated a loss of R28m in 2012, and R33m in 2013, while its depleted assets were valued at a dismal R69,000.
Acting deputy judge-president David van Zyl said the course of action against Crous, Baatjies and Stuurman, was preserved.
They are all defending the matter.
Crous said he had not been aware of the order against Watson, but declined to comment further.
A total of 18 players, including former captain Ronnie Cook, Michael van Vuuren, Tim Whitehead and Scott van Breda, based their claim on allegations that Watson, Crous, Baatjies and Stuurman were party to EP Rugby’s “fraudulent” and “reckless acts”.
Van Zyl’s order is based on a signed affidavit from Watson.
It states: “I, Daniel John Watson, do hereby irrevocably and unconditionally consent to judgment in terms of the aforementioned summons in the sum of [R23.4m] together with costs on a party/party scale, alternatively as agreed ... in the event that I pay an amount of R5m, together with costs, accepted by the plaintiffs as full and final payment of the debt owed by me.”
The players were represented by advocate Bruce Dyke SC, instructed by attorney Craig Jessop, whose fees Watson must now carry.
In papers before the high court, the rugby players claimed EP Rugby continued to contract players at exorbitant salaries when the beleaguered franchise was already effectively insolvent.
Some of them were earning between R1m and R1.85m a year.
They claimed further that for years prior to the liquidation, the business of EP Rugby was carried on recklessly or with the intent to defraud its creditors.
“Woefully inadequate accounting books were kept. The company, at all relevant times, traded under insolvent circumstances.
“The contracts of employment with professional rugby players were concluded at a time when the company had no independent financial ability to pay salaries.”
In further court papers dating back to February 2016, when the players had asked the court to wind up EP Rugby, they claimed they had been financially crippled by EP’s failure to pay their salaries.
Some players said they were unable to put food on the table and could not even afford petrol or rent.
– The Herald