Cricket South Africa: Who is really acting ’for the good of cricket’?
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‘FOR the good of cricket.’ That phrase has been floating around a lot in the last couple of days - months even.
Cricket South Africa’s Member’s Council - the highest decision making body in the organisation, comprising the 14 provincial presidents - says it is acting ‘for the good of cricket,’ by standing up for itself, the organisation and by extension the sport.
It is doing so by not allowing the Minister of Sport’s interim board of independent directors to do work Nathi Mthethwa mandated it to do.
The Members Council, which met on Friday evening, overwhelmingly chose to back the stance first made public last Thursday - that it would not be recognising the interim Board.
An email was also sent to staff on Thursday - executive and operational - telling them the interim Board no longer speaks for CSA.
The Members Council believes it is backed by a legal framework. The Memorandum of Incorporation was not adjusted to allow for the interim Board to be recognised and in addition, part of Friday evening’s discussions centred around a ‘Terms of Reference’ regarding the work that the interim Board needs to do.
When he named the representatives of the interim Board on October 30, Mthethwa said it would “hit the ground running to expeditiously deal with current governance systems, structures and procedures, including a proper consideration of the Nicholson recommendations; consider the Fundudzi report, its implications and consequences for CSA and to take any actions recommended in the report itself or actions that the interim Board deems appropriate.
“Review all Board decisions taken since 2019 and to report on those decisions that require the attention of the Members Council and to generally do whatever is necessary and appropriate in order to restore the integrity and reputation of CSA.”
That’s a wide ranging list of items, that could be seen as being a ‘Terms of Reference.’
Cricket SA has become very good at digging into legal minutiae when the organisation’s in trouble. Just because Mthethwa said what the interim Board is going to do, doesn’t mean CSA have to abide, because it hasn’t been formally listed as a ‘Terms of Reference.’
It’s the same thing CSA did in saying it wouldn’t recognise the interim Board, because it didn’t square with clauses contained in the organisation’s Memorandum of Incorporation. Lots of very tricky legal shenanigans, very little that appears to be ‘for the good of cricket.’
So Mthethwa is now angry - understandably so. He kept a watching brief for months as CSA ignored its players, sponsors, parliament and Sascoc. Then he stepped in and had the interim board he appointed with buy-in from CSA apparently, the country’s players and Sascoc, thrown back in his face.
He has threatened to use the powers available to him through the National Sports and Recreation Act to sanction CSA. Those powers include removing recognition of a national body, which would make the Proteas an illegitimate national team.
Crucially, Mthethwa has kept the International Cricket Council, which frowns on government intervention in national boards, abreast of his every move and the reasons for them. He is doing so ‘for the good of cricket.’
The Members Council has picked away at the interim Board looking for flaws; Haroon Lorgat’s presence is a real bone of contention. Many on the Members Council don’t want him involved. They view him as being responsible for the mess at CSA given his role in the defunct Global League T20.
The Council refuses to accept Mthethwa’s assurance or the word of retired constitutional court justice Zak Yacoob, that Lorgat will recuse himself when any discussions the Board has turns to the GLT20 and monies that were distributed involving that tournament.
All a red herring says Yacoob. And in that sense he is right. Yacoob, as became apparent during a lively press conference on Friday, doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He’s come across plenty of legal experts having served on the bench for 15 years in the country’s highest court.
“We have been trying to get information from them, to get them to account and my suspicion is, that it is because of the administration’s dissatisfaction with the (interim) board that they have probably complained to the Members Council and there’s a strong chance that the executive have had a great deal of influence in this decision to exclude the interim Board.”
That executive includes the all powerful company secretary, Welsh Gwaza, who is a ‘permanent invitee’ to virtually every committee at CSA from the development pipeline, to human resources, the nominations committee, finance and commercial, and the social and ethics committee among others.
Yacoob described CSA’s executive, that includes Gwaza, acting CEO Kugandrie Govender and chief financial officer, Pholetsi Moseki as being “uncooperative, difficult, unresponsive, arrogant and sometimes rude.”
Many in cricket circles would not have had to deal with someone as forthright as Yacoob, which is probably what led to the “breakdown in the relationship,” as CSA’s Members Council put it, between it and the interim Board.
"It is impossible, at this stage, to disgrace the Members Council without causing serious harm to South African cricket at the same time. They understand that problem. All of us want to achieve this result without harming cricket too much, and they want to persuade us that not harming cricket is equivalent to not harming them. We don't agree with that," Yacoob stated.
He said his Board would continue to do its work.
“Self-interest and politics are continuing to triumph over the best interests of cricket, at a time when the game is crying out for stability and certainty,” the chief executive of the SA Cricketers Association, Andrew Breetzke said in a statement later on Friday.
“It would appear as if the Members’ Council do not realise the extent of the damage being done to cricket, and sadly we are reaching a point where that damage may be irreparable.”
Mthethwa was emphatic about his position in his letter to the Members Council. He is happy with the work the interim Board has done so far and he expects that the Members Council and the executive will work closely with the independent body. “I will not hesitate to impose the sanctions available to me in terms of the Act,” he said.
“I sincerely hope that it will be unnecessary for me to take such drastic steps.”
‘For the good of cricket,’ the Members Council, players, sponsors, broadcasters and of course fans, must hope that he doesn’t.