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Friday, November 18, 2005

Some thoughts on SAGA

This was a response I wrote to a concern that the South African Go Association would reject the Johannesburg Go Club's Articles of Operation, which seek to formalise a non-hierarchical approach to decision-making and the implementation of Club functions (rankings, tournaments, etc.). For those interested in the details of those Articles, go here.

My gut feel is that the South African Go Association (SAGA) has nothing to do with the internal matters of any club. Then again, I'm liberal. SAGA is not a political organisation, it is not a political party, it is not even a trade union. It is a voluntary association designed to facilitate the playing of go in South Africa. A lot of confusion has come about by not understanding the implications of this. Clubs (groups of players playing go on a regular/semi-regular basis) have predated SAGA and will outlive SAGA. SAGA is not a control centre or an executive of the go playing community; it has no powers of sanction or compulsion. Any attempt to impose its will (as it has done in the past) will lead to failure and the death of SAGA; people, quite rightly, don't want to be told what to do by SAGA.

My own feeling is that if SAGA rejects this constitution (or any other decided upon democratically by any club) they are, in a sense, launching a war against the JHB Go Club, which would be a very sorry state of affairs. How can SAGA have any claim to legitimacy, as a democratic organisation, if it interferes with the democratic running of another organisation?

From a practical point of view, SAGA should encourage clubs to try out different methods of organisation, with the aim of finding out what works best and then suggesting that to individuals who want to start a club and want to know what to do about it. Since 1994, I don't think SAGA has ever produced a how-to form a club document and a policy on what it can do to help in club formation. In fact, at Johannesburg (JHB) Go Club's low point, no boards, utter disarray as President etc. disappeared, no venue, SAGA was notably absent and turned down a request to purchase boards on credit. The creation of Pretoria (PTA) go club was done with very little help from SAGA, and PTA's request for two sets was turned down at Council, much to my horror as a member of the Council at that time.

Further, I don't think that SAGA has any legal position to deny participation points or use of any other benefits to the JHB Go Club. For the past two years, JHB hasn't even had a constitution (no safety net, either) of any description, having had the constitution scrapped by vote. SAGA has acted as if it considered the JHB Go Club to be affiliated to SAGA, has included players at JHB on its mailing lists, invited them to tournaments, and given them participation points. Therefore, it has made precedent in this manner.

And further still, of the three Gauteng-based members of the SAGA Council, none have participated in the current procedure. Only one has apologised in advance for not making it (he was writing an exam). I've either spoken in person, on the phone or have left messages for these people, begging them to engage in this process. It seems to be the opposite in the Cape, with SAGA members playing an active role in the lives of the Cape Town and Stellenbosch clubs. All of the SAGA Council knows about this process and has yet to comment or raise concerns.

Still, the current SAGA council seems to be on the right track--as a member of SAGA since 1994, I approve of the current policies and actions--and I will approach them (again) about the Articles and see if there are any objections, which I do doubt.

Thankfully, the current SAGA Council sees no need to reject the JHB Articles of Operation. Good on them. There is hope for freedom.



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