Public sentiment is once again firmly against the suits running the game and a diabolical media approach has entrenched that feeling. Five journalists had their accreditation revoked at the Mzansi Super Leagues games in Cape Town and Joburg last weekend. Sponsors are unhappy and independent directors are resigning, writes Mandy Wiener
In March 2012, I sat in the media room at Loftus Versfeld rugby stadium, the cascading empty blue seats behind us, as Judge Chris Nicholson released his findings from his inquiry into the affairs of Cricket South Africa.
For months over 2011 and 2012, I had made the daily drive to Loftus to report on the inquiry as witness after witness testified about the inner workings of the sports governing body.
Nicholson, who by then was better known for his enormously contentious Zuma judgment, ran the inquiry astutely in his dignified way.
Then Sports Minister Fikile “Razzmatazz” Mbalula had appointed the inquiry in November 2011 to investigate CSA’s failure to implement recommendations by auditing firm KPMG.
It had found that bonus payments of R4.5 million to former CSA CEO Gerald Majola and former CSA COO Don McIntosh and other CSA employees had been kept secret from the federation’s remuneration committee.
But that bonus payments issue was just the crack that allowed the rotten innards of CSA to spill out into the public domain. Nicholson heard about the slack corporate governance and ethical failures that had polluted the organisation.
It had been a messy and damaging time at CSA with Mtutuzeli Nyoka and Majola, two sports administrators who had grown up together on the fields of Port Elizabeth, fighting to the death.
There were allegations, counter-allegations, bruising court battles, police cases and threats.
Nicholson found there was “overwhelming evidence” that Majola had contravened the Companies Act. He recommended that he should not only be suspended for a period of 180 days and should appear before a disciplinary committee, but that the National Prosecuting Authority should also look into the possibility of criminal charges against him. The Hawks did indeed launch an investigation into him.
I vividly recall the atmosphere at the time. Twitter was just grabbing hold and cricket fans were replying to my live tweets with cautious optimism. In Joburg, they had been largely denied the opportunity to watch live Proteas games and the public were fed up with those responsible for damaging the gentlemen’s game.
A week after the findings were released, Mbalula went public with all the requisite fanfare associated with his reign at the Sports Ministry.
“The Ministry of Sport and Recreation would like to inform all South Africans and sport-loving people of our country that we have now come to a watershed moment in the normalisation of the upheaval in cricket… The Board must conduct an open and brutally frank introspection about its role in the deepening crisis within cricket and ask themselves the question whether after so many blunders, they would be able to command the respect of all people within the sector and the respect of all South Africans over and above? Is it not time for the Board make way for a new leadership that will take Cricket South Africa to new era of hope and clean governance?
“No more time for cover-ups! That time is over and to prove this that this is not a threat, if the Board fails to implement the recommendations of the committee, the Government and the people of South Africa will show them how it should be done and how it should be done in the interest of sport and cricket in particular in our country,” said Mbalula.
For the next few years things looked relatively promising and we began to care more about the cricket than the administration of the game.
Now seven years on from that day at Loftus Versfeld in 2012, and some would argue that the situation CSA finds itself in is almost more catastrophic than it was during the Majola era.
Public sentiment is once again firmly against the suits running the game and a diabolical media approach has entrenched that feeling. Five journalists had their accreditation revoked at the Mzansi Super Leagues games in Cape Town and Joburg last weekend.
Sponsors are unhappy and independent directors are resigning.
There has been indecisive leadership around appointments, no clarity on the Director of Cricket position, an ongoing dispute with the players association and a dispute with Western Province Cricket.
Their PR crisis comms management has been diabolical with the spokesperson being evasive – it’s even worse than the awful radio interviews done when Majola was on the ropes. To top it off, their financial situation is dire. Oh, and it’s not like our performances on the field has brought us any consolation.
As former CSA President and lead independent director advocate Norman Arendse wrote in an open letter this week, “all of us in the cricket family thought that Nicholson would be the panacea for all our cricket ill. Indeed, my six years on a restructured CSA Board proved that this was the case – well, almost!”.
“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,” wrote Arendse.
In his resignation letter this week, Board chairperson and finance committee chief Iqbal Khan wrote that “events in recent months have completely undone the many good things we have achieved during the term of my office … I can no longer be party to an organisation that is fast ruining the game”.
Amongst the drivers that pushed Khan out were apparently widespread credit card abuse in the office, a legally toxic environment in the organisation, hastily organising a media conference this week and then cancelling it at the last minute, the mishandling of the director of cricket issue and very selective communication with SACA amongst others.
Indeed, it’s quite clear for all to see that the Nicholson inquiry was not the panacea we all thought it would be for Cricket South Africa. Ethically, the corporate governance of the organisation has failed despite Nicholson’s clear recommendations.
As a non-profit company, CSA is subject to the corporate governance, disclosure and other legal requirements of the Companies Act, although it’s not obliged to apply the King III Code, it claims it applies “most of it”.
I’m not convinced of that at this point.
We deserve better as a cricket loving nation. We all want the sport to be well run, for the players to be happy, for the media to do their jobs and for the fans to watch good, winning cricket.
The administrators need to do some serious introspection and reflect on how they arrived at this point and take responsibility.
Too often in this country we endure inquiries and mull over their recommendations, only to allow the cycle to repeat itself again. It’s a waste of time, money and effort and gets us nowhere. This shouldn’t be allowed to happen again.