In these weird and unprecedented times, the board of Cricket South Africa may just be the only organisation in the country that actively wants to self-isolate from the rest of the land. They have ducked, dived, diddled and dragged their heels through meeting after meeting, through press statement after press statement.
They have engaged with Sascoc and the sports ministry with all the commitment of Elizabeth Taylor, who got engaged and married eight times. CSA and Taylor both liked to engage, but you knew it was never going to last. CSA have employed the tactics of passive resistance, showing feigned and wilful ignorance, believing they can blinker their way through this crisis and come out the other side with things pretty much the way they were. They nod, agree change is needed, say nice, meaningless things about the minister and Sascoc, and then do what they hell they want.
But, well, it looks like they have hit a wall they did not see in the road. They have bluffed and double bluffed, and on Wednesday sports minister Nathi Mthethwa called them on it, giving them, notice the government will intervene in the running of CSA unless they tell him why they should do it. They need to submit their reasons – in writing – to him by October 27. If you listen carefully, you can hear the desperate scratching of heads at CSA HQ in Melrose as they bend, twist and spin a series of scenarios that could keep them in situ.
And there’s the problem, the core flaw. Many members of the board and CSA employees want to stay in power in cricket not for the good of the game in the country but for the good of themselves. There is a maxim that holds true in situations like these: those who seek power should be the very last who attain it.
Mthethwa will be also writing to the International Cricket Council to tell them of his intentions, which will cause some fluttering at ICC HQ in Dubai. World cricket needs a strong, competitive South Africa around if they are to be able to put some emphasis on that word “international” in their title. Whether they suspend CSA for government intervention or not will be a test of their laws and mettle. Perhaps they may side with the government on this one. Or, perhaps they will just fudge their response and wait for CSA to come crying to them about the big nasty government.
How did we get here? How did we arrive at a place where a parliamentary committee has had to summon the CSA board twice to discuss the publicity-shy Fundudzi report twice in the space of a week? How did cricket reach a level of crisis that had one former insider describe it as near as dammit to state capture as they have seen.
It began with factions in the board in 2016. It began when Naasei Appiah, then Chief Financial Officer before his promotion to Chief Operations Officer and subsequent firing, wrote a grievance letter to the board accusing then Chief Executive Officer of being anti-transformation.
“Naasei wasn’t a bad CFO,” a former insider told me recently. “He worked really well with Haroon and Gerald and was extremely competent. However it was Thabang (Moroe, the now axed CEO) and some board members that set (Appiah) up to write that 12-page grievance letter. That forced the board into appointing Charles Nupen and Thandi Orleyn (legal consultants) to conduct a four-month enquiry into the grievance, which ultimately led to nothing as the two found no evidence to support Naasei’s allegations in the grievance letter that Haroon was anti transformation.
“The damage we are seeing now is the result of that grievance claim, which led to an untenable work relationship between Haroon and Naasei, and forced the board to take sides. That led to the board pushing Haroon out in favour of keeping Naasei, which allowed for Thabang to come in as CEO and Naasei to be promoted to COO. This combination, along with Moroe appointed allies such as Welsh (Gwaza, CSA company secretary), Chantel Moon (HR consultant) and Kugandrie (Govender, former head of commercial and now acting CEO), have all messed it up for the sport.”
But, but, but, Govender told IOL cricket was “in her DNA”, so surely she should be good for the sport? Well, no, according to many who have worked with her. She and Moon have been described in words that might be politely translated as “not very good at their jobs”. Govender has denied she was involved in the revoking of the accreditation of five journalists in December last year.
“My job is to bridge that gap and make South Africans see the good work that is going on. I am not going to hide from the fact that the relationships that are broken are part of the chaos. Inside the organisation things are not as chaotic as one might think they are with us being in the headlines for all the wrong reasons,” Govender told IOL, who then said she was not a Moroe stooge, despite it being common knowledge that she was firmly in his camp.
“Thabang did appoint me. However, I am my own person and while he did make the appointment, it’s not a fair judgement to make. I was appointed in April. I worked with Thabang until early December. It is now August and another eight months have gone by and I haven’t worked with him during this time,” she said. But, the journalists and their accreditation?
“I think that is one of the most regrettable things that I’ve had to go through. Having a media background myself, it wasn’t something that I would have had endorsed on any level. No, I was not part of that. I think I was part of the healing process after that. I think the whole relationship with the media suffered as a result. A big part of that job is healing that. It should never have happened.”
Well, she did call Stuart Hess of The Star and spoke to him about it after he was told he couldn’t get into the Wanderers. I don’t know how healed Hess or any of the others feel today. I do know this. The communications department was part of her remit as Chief Commercial Officer. So, she was either frozen out the discussions about the accreditation, or has shown a remarkable disregard in not being aware of what was happening in the building. So, she’s either not telling the truth or she’s incompetent. It’s that simple.
It is a delightful irony that that the accreditation saga has resulted in some fine journalism from South African cricket writers. There are leaks upon leaks, enough fed-up players, administrators and frustrated cricket lovers to keep the stories going. It’s like CSA are the subject of a Comedy Central roast and the journalists are the ones showing them to be foolish. It doesn’t help that CSA seems to engineer even more foolish moments to add to the farce.
Take CSA’s briefing with a parliamentary sports committee this week, their second in the space of a week, which says much about the level of the crisis they are in. The acting president, Beresford Williams, was told to sling his hook from the meeting when he was implemented in the Fundudzi report.
As Craig Ray wrote in the Daily Maverick, Beresford “gladly” left, “slipping out of the firing line as so many of CSA’s leadership have done over the past year”. The meeting was four hours long and consisted of “gentle, medium-paced questions”.
The meeting also showed up the lack of true power and direction parliamentary sports committees have shown down the years. Sascoc have refused to co-operate with the committee in the past, deciding to boycott a meeting in 2008. The lack of care taken by MPs was highlighted by Ray when it was discovered that Appiah had tuned into the committee meeting.
“At Tuesday’s briefing, where most committee members were exposed as underprepared, CSA’s delegation said it would use the Nicholson report recommendations as the basis for a proposed restructure,” wrote Ray.
“At one point, sacked COO Naasei Appiah was, against protocol, present at the Zoom meeting. When it was pointed out that he was listening in, committee chairperson Beauty Dlulane stated: ‘I don’t even know this person who you are talking about. Who’s that person?’
“Considering Appiah is mentioned numerous times in a summary of the Fundudzi forensic report and no doubt several more times in the full report that the committee demanded they receive at the previous week’s meeting, this was a massive embarrassment. Clearly, the chairperson had not given the document more than a cursory glance.”
It was as cursory a glance and as fleeting a commitment as CSA have given to the recommendations of the Nicholson report over the last eight years. They have slowly but surely eroded and ignored the purpose of the report into the governance and structure of CSA, falling back into old habits – politicking and power-mongering to get the best seat at the trough.
October 27. The deadline set by the sports minister is not far away. The board and some staff at CSA are trying desperately to work themselves into a super over, where they will swing with abandon in a final attempt to keep themselves in situ and the status quo in place. But, as we head to an uncertain summer for the Proteas, winter is coming for CSA. They just can’t see it.