CSA needs to rediscover its core amid leadership fiasco

Cricket South Africa has lost another vital sponsorship. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Cricket South Africa has been rocked by infighting, scandals, poor corporate governance, a pending financial crisis and a leadership scramble. Where does it go from here?

Jacques Faul, Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) former acting chief executive, drove from his home in Centurion to CSA’s offices on Glenhove Avenue in Illovo on Tuesday, and packed up his desk after having resigned at a CSA board meeting on Monday.

In the days to come, he will play a little golf and spend the weekend in Stilfontein in the North West where he grew up. Next week, he will have an operation to remove a cataract from his left eye. 

Fading eyesight was the least of Faul’s problems during his often crisis-ridden nine-month tenure, for he saw all too clearly. As was the case with CSA president Chris Nenzani on Monday – he realised he was neither wanted nor needed, for the locus of power in the organisation had shifted elsewhere.

Welsh Gwaza might be the company secretary, but he is also a permanent invitee to the crucial nominations committee and is de facto chief operations officer. With Faul quitting, Gwaza will in all probability become acting chief executive, forming an alliance with independent director, Dr Eugenia Kula-Ameyaw, head of the transformation committee.

“That’s where the power now lies,” said Faul on Monday night. “Chris realised it as well, that’s why he resigned.”

Faul and Nenzani’s departure within 48 hours of each other means that Gwaza and Kula-Ameyaw face the tasty prospect of representing CSA before the ANC’s Portfolio Committee on Sport on Friday, 21 August 2020. Among other things, the portfolio committee wants to know why the forensic report by auditors Fundudzi into the reasons behind CSA’s suspension of then chief executive, Thabang Moroe, has still not yet been made public.

Moroe was placed on “precautionary suspension” on 6 December 2019, receiving his full pay of R365,000 a month and Fundudzi’s report has still not seen the light of day. 

AGM and the battle for control

The next hurdle on the horizon for beleaguered CSA is their annual general meeting (AGM) scheduled for 5 September 2020. After Nenzani’s resignation, the presidential front-runners appear to be current vice-president Beresford Williams (who has taken over from Nenzani until the AGM), and Eastern Province’s Donovan May. Williams was subjected to a vote of no-confidence by his own board at Western Province in 2019, which suggests he isn’t well thought of on his home patch, while May blotted his copybook by making some ill-advised comments in support of the CSA board on the eve of the meltdown which saw them getting rid of Moroe. 

That leaves Ben Dladla, the respected president of the KwaZulu-Natal Cricket Union, and Tebogo Siko, who fills a similar position at the Titans, while there are murmurings on the bush telegraph that the AGM might also see a return to administrative duty of Norman Arendse, either as an independent director or possible president.      

More important than the shuffling of deckchairs on the Titanic, however, is that CSA’s Board and Member’s Council need to use the AGM to decide how best to prevent themselves from becoming an utter fiasco. Not a week has gone since Moroe’s suspension when there hasn’t been some kerfuffle, spat or leak to the press.

The last six weeks have been especially fractious, whether this concerns the holding company behind last month’s Solidarity Cup, or Graeme Smith’s future as director of cricket. Clearly Tribeca, a public relations company hired by the CSA board, have their work cut out for them. 

So deep has the crisis become that what is at stake now is nothing less than cricket’s integrity as a sport. While people accepted local cricket’s Black Lives Matter (#BLM) signatories for what they were — a plea for greater racial sensitivity and understanding — Lungi Ngidi’s protest was quickly hijacked by opportunists in his midst. 

Suddenly, after four years of silence, in which there was no hint that Thami Tsolekile had any beef with the workings of CSA’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) whatsoever, he would now have us believe that there was a sinister racial agenda behind finding him and five others’ guilty for conspiring to fix T20 matches in the 2015 RAM/SLAM. 

the stakes are now unusually high. Cricket, an obtuse and mysterious game of great depth, is being besmirched on an almost daily basis, often by the very people who should hold its values most dear. In all of this, cricket somehow needs to rediscover its core, what makes it fun, what makes it so constantly intriguing, what we love about it as proud South Africans.

Never mind that the malfeasance of mastermind Gulam Bodi was investigated for 18 months with the help of forensic investigators and co-operation from the International Cricket Council (ICC), who praised the ACU for the quality of its work. Never mind that Tsolekile’s lawyers were briefed at every turn and he signed an admission of guilt form. Never mind that as captain of the Lions in their match against the Dolphins at Kingsmead in early December 2015, he had the power to call the bowling changes in the latter stages of the Dolphins innings (calls he apparently got wrong) but, as captain, he basically betrayed his teammates. His crime, in other words, was exactly the same as Hansie Cronje’s. 

Throughout the ACU’s investigation, Tsolekile was consistently the most “hostile and un-co-operative” of the six finally sanctioned, according to a CSA source. Now he wants us to believe that he is the aggrieved party. 

His eagerness to “bark”, as he calls it, might yet have an ulterior motive.  As a result of Ngidi’s #BLM signatories, a faction on the CSA board is considering the idea of a retroactive compensation fund “for dealing with opportunity cost due to discrimination”, and here the ex-wicketkeeper could have a point.

Tsolekile was led to believe he was the successor to Mark Boucher after Boucher’s eye was injured during the Proteas’ warm-up game against Somerset in 2012, and Gary Kirsten, the then coach, said as much. There was an itch, though, between Kirsten and the convenor of selectors, Andrew Hudson, and while this is never a bad thing, Tsolekile suffered when it was decided to allow AB de Villiers to become the national ‘keeper instead. 

Amid the hand-wringing, a lighter moment. In the recent fuss about Tsolekile, the tjatjarag, little has been said about Bodi, the brains. It is a matter of public record that Bodi was dealing with two sets of Indian match fixers, having visited India to meet them in August 2015, but less well-known is the fact that Bodi was double-dipping with the fixers, taking money, in other words, from both groups while providing only one fix. 

In the history of spot-fixing in cricket, this represents entirely new levels of initiative. Bodi might have pushed the match-fixing envelope into uncharted terrain – except he got caught and sentenced to five years in prison in October 2019.

Bodi aside, the stakes are now unusually high. Cricket, an obtuse and mysterious game of great depth, is being besmirched on an almost daily basis, often by the very people who should hold its values most dear. In all of this, cricket somehow needs to rediscover its core, what makes it fun, what makes it so constantly intriguing, what we love about it as proud South Africans. The time for petty bullshit is over. As Bob Dylan sang in All Along the Watchtower: “So let us not talk falsely now/the hour is getting late.DM


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