Former Kenya Golf captain contests suspension

By francis marangu
Feb 18, 2021
  • Robinson Awiti of Vet Lab Sports Club is contesting a one-year suspension by the Kenya Golf Union. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

Filing a case against Kenya Golf Union (KGU) at the Sports Disputes Tribunal has brought more trouble than relief to suspended veteran golfer Robinson Owiti.

Owiti has appealed against a one year suspension by KGU effective October 27, 2015. He is alleged to have confronted the union’s chairman at Limuru Golf Club on October 13.

The suspension barred him from taking part in any golfing activities and was excluded from the Golfer of The Year (GOTY) ranking which is one of the benchmarks for selection to the national team.

An executive committee meeting which was held later to discuss his conduct decided to suspend him. The decision was communicated to Owiti through a letter dated October 28.

He has made unsubstantiated claims that his life  is in danger as a result of events of the past week which Sports News Arena were not in a position to verify. “My life's in danger but I will pursue this matter regardless of what happens,” he told Sports News Arena after attending hearing at the tribunal offices on Tuesday.

The case seeks to challenge the suspension on the basis that it was improper and that KGU was not entitled to make the decision it made. During the hearing, Owiti was represented by lawyer Samson Mbeche who said his client was suspended unheard.

“Our major concern is that when they were making this decision, there is no proof that the appellant was given room to be heard. The decision went against rules of natural justice and infringed his rights,” Mbeche submitted.

He further told the tribunal that KGU ignored its own and Constitution of Kenya in suspending Owiti. “The action was not lawful thus prejudiced the appellant. KGU by-laws provide procedures to handle such matters. Also, there is a requirement that the home club should be informed which did not happen. We pray that this tribunal finds the decision to suspend the appellant as unlawful and should be rescinded.”

Tribunal has no jurisdiction?

Lawyer Mutua Molo appearing for KGU refuted that saying Vet Lab Golf Club was informed about the suspension of their player. He opposed the petition saying the tribunal did not have jurisdiction unless both parties had consent.

But, tribunal chairman John Ohaga overruled him saying as per the Sports Act, there was no need for consent on matters touching selection to national teams and disciplinary issues.

Mutua obliged but reminded the tribunal that they need to canvass carefully on issues that led to the suspension. He said the appellant was misleading the tribunal by trying to show that the suspension letter issued on October 28 was a finality.

“It's just a proposal. The letter confirms there was a meeting held where his conduct was discussed but there were no resolutions made. They just gave recommendations and that letter should be read in its fullness,” Mutua said.

“The sanctions listed there have not been taken but they have been proposed to be taken. Content of that letter is not final since there is an opportunity for him to show cause.” The mode of selection for national teams to international events is another matter that Owiti is seeking the tribunal to canvas on.

Because of the suspension, Owiti has already missed out on three key tournaments. First was the All Africa Games and East Africa Golf Challenge held in Kenya last year between October and November. He was also left out of the team to the Africa Amateur Team Championship that concluded in South Africa last week.

The biggest contention was inclusion of Jay Sandhu to the national team in 2013 yet he is a Briton. Owiti through his lawyer argued it was against KGU rules which stipulate that a player has to be a Kenyan to qualify.

“We received a confirmation from the Immigrations Department that he is not a Kenyan yet he was part of the national team,” Mbeche said. Owiti’s coach at the time Charles Farrah confirmed the same. “KGU knew that and his name should not have been on the list anyway.”

Mbeche served the tribunal with a letter dated May 25, 2021 in which players complained that selection was suspect. Mutua said the matter had no bearing on the case before the tribunal.

“We are at the danger of dragging this tribunal into a matter it ought not to at this point. The right way for the tribunal to handle this is by not interfering with what happens to be an internal issue.”

Tribunal will make a ruling on March 1, 2016.