FILE - Former Cricket South Africa president Norman Arendse.
FILE - Former Cricket South Africa president Norman Arendse.

Arendse writes letter telling CSA to get their house in order

Time of article published Dec 3, 2019

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CAPE TOWN – Former Cricket South Africa president Norman Arendse has penned an impassioned opened letter asking cricket's governing body to get their house in order.

CSA have been lurching from crisis to crisis in recent weeks, which culminated in a number of top cricket writers in the highveld having their accreditation revoked and unable to cover a recent Msansi Super League clash in Johannesburg.

While chief executive Thabang Moroe has apologised after a stern talking to by the South African National Editor's Forum and Proteas' title sponsors Standard Bank, it seems as thoug damage has already been done as board member Shirley Zinn walked away from CSA, citing CSA’s failure to adhere to good corporate governance standards.

Arendse’s comments come at a time when there is ongoing criticism of Moroe, and the recent decision to suspend the media accreditation of five cricket journalists.

Arendse was himself no stranger to controversy during his tenure at the governing body between 2007 and 2008.

The letter reads:

Dear cricket-loving fraternity

It is painful to pen this letter. 

However, there is just too much at stake to permit our great sport of cricket to fall any further. Silence would be much more painful. Therefore, I write this open letter of appeal to our cricket family members, the CSA Board, the CSA Members’ Council and the paid CSA administrators to act before it is too late.

I suspect, however, that the horse has bolted, and that we are beyond the precipice, and into the abyss. 

As a former CSA President, and until just over a year ago, the CSA Lead Independent Director, I have the utmost respect for prescribed procedures and protocols to be followed when differences arise within the cricket family. 

It appears, however, that for several reasons that have manifested publicly, the family differences cannot and will not be resolved through the prescribed route. 

What prompts me to say this is not sourced from any insider knowledge or some whistle-blower; they are sourced in CSA’s own public pronouncements and written media statements: the restructuring of our domestic competitions; the concentration of power in the hands of the CEO to make key appointments (approved by the CSA Board); the failure to make key Board committee appointments including the failure to appoint the Independent Lead Director (after more than a year since the election of the board; the suspension of senior executive officials; the ongoing dispute with SACA; and the recent dispute with Western Province Cricket which ended in a humiliating loss to Cricket South Africa at arbitration.  

These issues are all well-documented and are public knowledge.

The last straw must surely be the most recent banning by CSA of several highly respected cricket journalists who collectively have decades of experience in cricket. (Some of them I have disagreed with both privately and publicly, but it never entered my mind to suggest or propose that they are banned from the game). 

Their banning is unconstitutional, and unlawful, and must be deplored by all cricket-lovers.

The future sustainability of cricket is also at grave risk given the public CSA pronouncement of a projected shortfall of hundreds of millions of Rands. It appears that the culling of franchise cricket as we know it is a direct response to CSA’s financial woes.

I do not wish to be hypocritical or self-serving. As a veteran cricket administrator, I have learnt to accept constructive criticism (especially from well-meaning and experienced cricket journalists), and from members of the public who know their cricket.  

Along the way, mistakes have been made. All of us in the cricket family thought that Nicholson would be the panacea for all our cricket ills. Indeed, my six years on a restructured CSA Board proved that this was the case – well, almost! 

This was a honeymoon period for cricket: we ranked amongst the best in the world in all formats of the game; we were highly respected at ICC level; 

Our transformation strategy appeared to be working with an exponential increase in the number of Black African players, in particular, representing the country at the highest level; and, the exponential increase of black African cricketers participating at franchise and provincial level; and financially we reached the billion Rand mark (even before our own National Soccer League did!).

We had over R600 million in reserve. These reserves have now dwindled dramatically, and with the unsponsored Mzansi League, these reserves will likely be depleted shortly.

Lastly, the utterances of CSA’s Head of Media and Communications Thamie Mthembu rank with those of Saddam Hussein’s spokesman “Baghdad Bob” or better known as “Comical Ali”.

The CEO’s recent interview has also not inspired any confidence that he is capable of arresting CSA’s decline, let alone turning around the organisation to put it on a more secure and sustainable footing.

All of the above leads me to one very sad conclusion: the CSA Board has simply abdicated its fiduciary responsibilities by failing to act with the due care, skill and diligence required of it by the Companies Act, and the CSA Constitution. To the extent that the CSA Members’ Council are aware of the abovementioned shortcomings and failures of governance, they too must share responsibility, and be held accountable. 

I never, ever thought I would do something like this, but I have plucked up the courage to do so not only to appease my own conscience, but also in response to the many, many expressions of concern I have received from across the cricket family: past and present administrators, past and present cricketers of all colours, all persuasions, all communities and all religious groupings.

I, therefore, call on the Board and the Members’ Council to meet urgently to consider the matters raised in this letter, and to hold the CEO (and those who have been complicit) to account. 

I have shared the contents of this letter with Advocate Vusi Pikoli (former Independent Member of the CSA Board, and past chairperson of the CSA Social and Ethics committee) who endorses the sentiments expressed in this letter. 

Norman Arendse SC

IOL Sport

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