Johannesburg - It was on November 21, while covering a Mzansi Super League match at SuperSport Park, that a very reliable source of mine at Cricket South Africa informed me of the following via WhatsApp: “I have heard they want to ban you from CSA events and stadiums.”
“Are you serious?” I replied.
I’ve been informed subsequently that the ban was discussed, but quickly dismissed, apparently at the same meeting where it was first raised.
Then last Wednesday I interviewed Cricket South Africa’s Head of Media and Communications Thamie Mthembu. My first contact with Mthembu was about the suspension of three of CSA’s senior administrative officials at the end of October. Our conversation was brief.
Last week after days of having calls ignored, Mthembu finally picked up the phone and I asked him about the resignation of another senior official and also what was happening regarding the appointment of a Director of Cricket, a convenor of selectors and a selection panel for the senior men’s Proteas team.
The following day I had to cover another MSL match at SuperSport Park.
When I went to scan my media accreditation, the scanner read: “Ticket cancelled.” Fortunately the very kind security lady near the press box at the ground, who knows me from all the years I’ve covered matches there, allowed me in and an official from the Northerns Cricket Union was on hand to get me into the media centre.
I first contacted Cricket SA’s Koketso Gaofetoge, who deals with issues related to accreditation, on Friday evening, but he did not answer his phone.
On Saturday morning I contacted Gaofetoge again this time via WhatsApp and informed him again that my accreditation had been cancelled and that because we (as the media) had worked through him when there were issues with accreditation, wondered if he could tell me what was going on. He replied, saying he would “speak to Thamie (Mthembu) to find out”.
A few hours later I called Gaofetoge again and he told me that he’d informed Mthembu about my message but that he hadn’t heard back from him.
However, Gaotefoge said he would be seeing Mthembu for dinner on Saturday night and would discuss my matter with him and I should check back.
Gaotefoge never answered the phone when I called him a couple of times on Saturday night.
Yesterday morning I went to the Wanderers to cover the Jozi Stars v Paarl Rocks match. When I scanned my accreditation at the Wanderers, the scanner read: “Ticket cancelled”. The security lady told me to go to the ticket office (I don’t know her as well as the lady at SuperSport Park). At the Wanderers ticket office I was given a service ticket by an employee of Gauteng Cricket - someone I do know. I asked her to check my accreditation for me as it had read “cancelled” when scanned at both SuperSport Park and the Wanderers.
She told me after typing the code on my pass into a computer that according to the system which CSA uses for all the people it accredits, my media accreditation had been “revoked”.
I called my sports editor immediately thereafter.
At 2.48pm yesterday, a little less than two hours after Cricket SA chief executive Thabang Moroe had confirmed on eNCA that I had been banned and why CSA had done so and that I could pay for a ticket if I wanted to go into a stadium, I received an email from CSA’s “Accreditation Team”.
It read: “Dear Mr. Stuart Hess
Greetings and we hope you’re well. Your accreditation application has been processed and is “Approved” by the tournament authority.”
“Approved” was written in bold.
* We asked CSA for comment on this matter but at the time of going to press none was forthcoming.