The extent to which Cricket South Africa (CSA) was captured by a small group of people has been exposed in increasingly glaring detail over the past 10 days. This situation can be traced back to the start of current chief executive Thabang Moroe’s tenure in late 2017.
Hundreds of pages of court documents, emails and reports in Daily Maverick’s possession, as well as interviews with seven key figures paint a picture of the leadership of an organisation that was increasingly authoritarian.
Below are some of the problems Moroe, president Chris Nenzani and the CSA board have created or failed to adequately address. Reflected also are areas where there has been a failure to fulfil their duties in the best interests of cricket.
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The appointment of Jacques Faul, however capable he may be, as acting CEO on Saturday, is applying a band-aid to a weeping gash, considering Nenzani, and nine of the original 12-person board, are still controlling CSA.
Moroe’s rise and the era of non-accountability
Moroe was a manager of an MTN call centre when he served on the board of Gauteng cricket and came under the influence of union president Jack Madiseng, a strong ally in cricket politics.
Moroe quickly rose to the position of CSA vice-president in 2017. Insiders told Daily Maverick that he was considering a bid to challenge Nenzani for president.
But Nenzani is a tactful politician and he convinced the younger, less experienced man, to target Haroon Lorgat’s position as CEO. The pair would run together. With Nenzani’s backing and the assistance of then-chief financial officer Naasei Appiah they worked Lorgat out. Moroe became acting CEO in September 2017, while still vice-president, which was a conflict of interest.
“Out of the blue the CFO [Appiah at the time] laid 12 charges against Lorgat, including being anti-transformational,” a Daily Maverick source explained.
“A fact-finding mission was carried out as a result of these charges and it came up with nothing. What this fact-finding mission did instead was put a strain on Haroon’s relationship with Appiah. It is also common knowledge that Thabang [Moroe] and Appiah were trying to get rid of Haroon. A major part of the reason was this idea that Lorgat wasn’t Africanising CSA enough. There was this narrow African transformation agenda that they were trying to install and they found Haroon to be a stumbling block.”
A few months later Moroe was appointed as permanent CEO and relinquished the vice-president position.
“As soon as Thabang took over permanently they said they are doing an audit and assessment of where cricket is going [and] from there they will create an organisational design,” a CSA source told Daily Maverick.
“That never materialised, then finally they just came and said this is what the organisational design (OD) was going to look like. All people who asked questions and held them to account were moved aside. They removed Clive Eksteen and put someone above him.
“The whole OD was created to enforce and entrench positions with people that they could control. They have a new CFO, company secretary, commercial manager, all people that are obviously going to sing from the same hymn sheet.
“Every other line item, people had to sharpen their pencil and spend less, but Operational Excellence increased by 44% and they blame it on the OD. No one had seen the OD except them until it was implemented.”
In February 2019, Moroe decided that the structure of the domestic game needed to change, from a six-franchise system back to 12 professional teams, ostensibly under the premise that it was to cut costs. But Saca challenged this assessment, as well as the lack of consultation over the decision.
On April 11 2019, Moroe said at a media conference that the South African Cricketers’ Association (Saca) had been “consulted” and they had “agreed in principle” to the changes.
Saca’s president, Omphile Ramela, sent an email to Moroe on April 18 2019, taking him to task over those comments.
“We note that statements made by CSA at the media conference [on April 11] are totally inaccurate. Saca has never ‘agreed in principle’ to the restructure. CSA has also not ‘consulted’ with Saca. Consultation on any domestic restructure must be as set out the in Saca, CSA recognition agreement, which CSA has not followed.”
Saca, playing the role the board should have played, also repeatedly asked for clarification on CSA finances, particularly its financial forecast of a R654-million loss over the next four years. It was never given.
At a meeting of the CSA finance working group on February 19 this year, Saca was informed that CSA would no longer share any financial details with them.
“Moroe informed me telephonically that no further financial information would be provided to Saca,” Saca chief executive Tony Irish said in his affidavit when Saca launched court action. Irish challenged him on the matter, but Moroe told him that Saca must “trust CSA” on the figures. Naturally, this went down like a fumbled slip catch with Irish and Saca.
“They [Moroe and Nenzani] don’t want to show the figures because then they’ll be caught out,” one of Daily Maverick’s sources said. “We are supposed to be saving money, but board members are still travelling first class for local flights… what do you call that?
“The board are complicit in keeping quiet. They have been informed about how things have been manipulated and changed when this leadership took over. They haven’t responded… there hasn’t even been an apology. As harsh as it may sound, we need to break this whole house down and rebuild it. It’s as simple as that because it won’t happen from within.”
CSA leadership collapse
Cricket South Africa is in turmoil facing an uncertain financial future after a disastrous two years under the now-suspended Moroe and president Nenzani. The bulk of the complicit board under CSA president and board chairman Nenzani remain in place. This, despite a week of turmoil in which CSA lost an R80-million-a-year sponsorship from Standard Bank, banned journalists from games and suspended its CEO.
“We are astounded that the board of CSA, which has led the organisation during a tumultuous period when all this has happened, now refuses to take responsibility for the deep, deep crisis in which cricket finds itself,” Irish said in a Saca statement on December 9.
“No one disagrees with the removal of the chief executive, but to suggest that the buck stopped with him alone, and for the board to cling so desperately to power, is a matter for serious concern.
“The president and other board members in fact ignored the legitimate concerns of Saca and the players for months in the same way that the chief executive did. Formal and detailed letters were sent not only to the chief executive but also to the president and chairman of the finance committee dating back several months. No replies to the letters were ever received. This happened long before Saca launched its court proceedings.”
There has been a virtual leadership vacuum at the organisation that hasn’t adequately been filled since former CEO Lorgat was ousted by Moroe and his ally, Nenzani, in a boardroom putsch in September 2017.
Not that Lorgat was a faultless leader – no one is, in the Machiavellian world of sports administration – but he ran a tight ship, following the principles of good corporate governance and boardroom oversight. The board structure of including five independents started after Judge Chris Nicholson’s review into cricket in 2011. Following a scandal centring on bonus payments to then-CEO Gerald Majola, Judge Nicholson recommended a smaller board with a strong panel of independents.
It was a crucial recommendation that in theory should have provided balance to the possible allegiances that tend to exist in boards drawn only from the ranks of provincial bodies. But CSA only gave five positions to independents and seven to cricket insiders.
After Lorgat’s ousting and subsequent departures of the likes of advocate Norman Arendse, Vusi Pikoli and Louis von Zeuner when their terms ended, Moroe didn’t have the same hawkish oversight.
“The idea of the five independent directors worked in the beginning,” Lorgat told Daily Maverick. “They started as independents, but down the line they became compromised to the point that they extended their terms.
“The CSA constitution is clear that all board members can only have six years maximum – two terms of three years. Last September that was changed to extend president Chris Nenzani and others’ terms by another year.
“That’s when you have to start asking questions – why do people want to stay on? What are they trying to cover up?”
Lorgat’s critics will argue he has an axe to grind, having been ousted by CSA, after his ambitious plan to launch the T20 Global League in 2017, which would have ideally positioned CSA for a piece of an international broadcast pie whose slices of T20 cricket are increasingly bigger. Lorgat’s idea featured many heavyweight Indian sponsors and owners that he claims would’ve added $32-million (R480-million) annually to CSA’s coffers from licence fees from the team owners alone.
With Moroe and Nenzani’s takeover, the T20 Global League was stillborn as the Indian owners were scared off by CSA’s internal problems. Instead, Moroe and Nenzani came up with the Mzansi Super League (MSL), a T20 competition that, according to court papers filed by the Saca in a dispute with CSA, will lose over R200 -million by the end of its second season.
“In October 2017, after I had been ousted by CSA, I read in the papers that the Global T20 League was no longer happening and it was postponed to 2018,” Lorgat told Daily Maverick.
“I can only speculate that they realised they didn’t have the expertise to deliver the tournament even though there were binding letters of commitment with the owners of the franchises. CSA pulled the deal.
“CSA had to pay back $250,000 (R3.65-million) deposit fees to the eight owners as a consequence, plus they gave each owner an additional $180,000 (R2.65-million) settlement payment. That was R21-million in settlements for the eight teams.
“Players were also auctioned and were owed money. I really don’t think the CSA leadership at the time realised the level of commitments they already had to fulfil.”
Another source close to the T20 Global League negotiations says that it cost CSA R200-million in payouts alone.
“Besides the settlements paid back to the eight owners, each team had a player budget of $1.8-million,” the source said. “As part of the compensation package, 60% of that amount had to be paid to the players, plus there were already costs of planning and organisation.”
Irish believes that Lorgat’s estimate of $32-million income annually for the T20 Global League might be overstated, but that the idea had merit and could have been profitable.
Irish and his organisation have worked with multiple CSA presidents and CEOs and it’s only since Moroe was at the helm that the relationship collapsed.
“Lorgat was experienced and he operated on a tough, cost-based approach,” Irish told Daily Maverick. “Perhaps the T20 Global League was too ambitious, but what is abundantly clear is that the Mzansi Super League (MSL) cannot afford to continue in the current format given the losses incurred.
“Lorgat was in principle right about the need for a competitive South African T20 competition. The Indian Premier League (IPL) recently renewed its broadcast deal and it’s in triple figures [in US dollars]. I can tell you it comes from the same pie as the rest of the global broadcast funding, which means less to go around for international cricket and therefore South Africa.”
Failing the players
CSA is not only culpable when it comes to financial mismanagement, which affects all aspects of the business, but Moroe and Nenzani apparently drove a wedge between CSA and players.
The sour relationship between players and the CSA hierarchy reached its lowest point at Cricket World Cup 2019.
“The nepotism and cronyism that’s happened has been very obvious to the players,” a source told Daily Maverick. “This patronage and thieving are a mess and the players are gatvol of what’s happening. The only organisation that has kept CSA ‘leaders’ in check is Saca.
“The way Moroe dealt with Ottis Gibson is an absolute farce. At the board meeting on February 1, there was a moratorium that took place that Thabang [Moroe] as CEO would sign off on teams. Some board members fought hard against it and stopped it.
“And at the same board meeting, Ottis was assured a contract extension until April 2021. He met with Corrie van Zyl and Thabang and the agreement was made verbally. But because he had fought Moroe on the team selection interference thing, CSA made a complete U-turn the day before World Cup and told Ottis he wouldn’t be receiving an extension.”
This view is corroborated in the official Proteas post-CWC 2019 report, which is in Daily Maverick’s possession.
Taken from the report, the following points are made:
“The Feb 1st [sic] CSA board meeting decision that the chief executive signs off on the team didn’t go down well with the players and was perceived as interference. Thankfully, common sense prevailed and the decision was reversed by the board.
“The Saca/CSA dispute shortly before the tournament commenced was both untimely and unfortunate. As much as we tried to downplay the dispute, it affected the team space.
“The extension of contracts issue was unfortunate.
“Head Coach – He was made to understand that CSA approved of an extension until April 2021 at its 1-2 February Board meeting. This was re-affirmed to him in a meeting with the Chief Executive and Head of Cricket Pathways in March 2019.
“Apparently this decision was reversed and he was only informed of the same on the day of our departure for the CWC, on May 19. The timing of this communication was most unfortunate.
“During the Sri Lanka home series performance appraisal meetings were held with the Head of Cricket Pathways and individual technical support staff. An indication was given that a request for their contracts to be extended until April 2021 would be discussed with CSA management and confirmation would be provided prior to the CWC. Unfortunately, this did not happen and no explanation was given for the delay in communicating with them on this issue.”
The report was also critical of CSA leadership for not standing up to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) over Proteas’ players IPL commitments, which negatively affected their fitness and performances at CWC 2019.
“Moroe refused to deal with BCCI over the IPL because he believed that India would grant us some extra ODI matches down the line,” Irish said. “It was also partly because the IPL pays 20% of the players’ fee to CSA. If players don’t play, that drops to 10%.
“As Saca, we even offered to put money into a players’ fund to help compensate for the loss of earnings, so they could prepare fully for CWC 2019. But Moroe wouldn’t stand up to them.
“Part of the reason the BCCI didn’t like Haroon is that he was always ready to stand up to them. In 2015 he pulled Proteas players out of the IPL to prepare the team as well as possible for CWC 2015. The result was that the BCCI cut their next tour of South Africa short in retaliation, which cost CSA about R300-million. But at least Haroon fought for the players.”
The official report raised these concerns too.
“The national team made a request for key Proteas players to return home early from the IPL for a period of rest and rejuvenation before the CWC, similar to what Cricket Australia and England Cricket Board did,” the report stated. “This request was turned down by the IPL/BCCI and was not supported by CSA.
“Kagiso Rabada’s competitive workloads were high throughout the season and this has been red-flagged on a number of occasions.
“This was a major cause of his previous lumbar spine fracture and also contributed to him being both physically and mentally jaded during the CWC 2019 tournament.
“It is interesting to note that he has bowled more overs than any other fast bowler up to this stage of his career. There was a drop in KG’s bowling speed at CWC (when compared to his speed during the Pakistan series), which suggests that the load on KG has contributed to fatigue and under-performance. The setting of and management of compliance with EPG targets needs to be revisited by CSA so that our star players like KG and Lungi Ngidi can be given sufficient rest and conditioning time.
“An issue that seems to have had a significant detrimental effect on the team’s performance at the 2019 CWC was the decision to allow/force key players [Faf du Plessis, Rabada and Quinton de Kock] to stay at the IPL till the end, which was against the coach’s, team management’s and medical committee’s recommendations. This resulted in inadequate player recovery time.
“Rabada had an injury scare towards the end of the IPL. Only after intervention by [Proteas] team management, who arranged for him to be assessed in India by the Proteas’ physiotherapist, Craig Govender, was it established that his injury was more serious than his franchise was making out. It was only at that stage, that his release from the IPL was secured.”
And on top of it, another insider claims that Moroe and Nenzani’s leadership is causing racial divisions in the squad.
“My biggest frustration is that we have come from a divided past, we have tried to use our diversity as a competitive advantage,” a team insider told Daily Maverick.
“That is what this whole Protea Fire campaign has done for at least a decade. But in this last six to 12 months we have destroyed that, so much so that this narrow African nationalism is creating a division within the team.”
Developments of the past 10 days, which saw CSA lose an arbitration dispute against the Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA) with costs, the attempted silencing of five critical journalists and the loss of sponsor Standard Bank have shone a bright light in the dark recesses CSA didn’t want illuminated.
This came after three employees – Corrie van Zyl (acting director of cricket), Appiah (COO) and Clive Eksteen (head of commercial) were suspended without explanation and due process. Their disciplinary hearings are still ongoing.
By the end of last week, three independent board members had resigned, Moroe was suspended with full pay with Faul appointed as acting CEO. But the festering rot in the ever-more rapidly declining CSA body has not been removed.
Nenzani, who was deafeningly silent throughout the week of turmoil, only put his head above the parapet on Saturday afternoon once Moroe was offered up as a scapegoat. As deserving as Moroe is of his removal, Nenzani, as chairman, and the rest of the board are equally culpable for the plight of an organisation that is in financial and operational meltdown.
But CSA’s Members Council, made up of the 14 presidents of the affiliate unions, did not put the best interests of cricket first by dissolving the board at a six-hour meeting last Friday night. Many of those presidents are allies of Nenzani and Moroe.
The fact that Nenzani and the board have not heeded calls for them to resign over the events of the past week, let alone many other massive issues plaguing CSA, is illuminating. They stand accused of having driven the CSA to the brink, but believe they are capable of turning the situation around.
Nenzani denied the board has been complicit. He placed the blame squarely on Moroe.
“At the end of the morning, the Members Council supported and endorsed the board to continue in its role and move forward in its efforts to turn the organisation around with a very clear message that the Members Council expects the board to exercise authority and its power in the interest of cricket,” said Nenzani at a media briefing on Saturday.
“The board is not complicit in terms of decision-making. The board took decisions and those decisions had to be implemented by the CEO and his management.
“The board will have to conduct business and take decisions within its purview, within its competency and therefore management will continue to implement those decisions in terms of mandating from the board.
“What has been a critical element has been the two issues that I referred to: the non-payment of the money that was due to SACA over the players as well as the revocation of the accreditation for certain journalists. Those issues have become so critical that we had to take drastic actions.”
As former South African Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said: “Mal-administration sometimes hurts worse than crime. And when governance fails, things fall apart.” DM
For the full response from the CSA, please see here:
"Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon." ~ Paul Brandt