SPORT ANALYSIS

Cricket SA Board all out, but what next?

By Telford Vice 26 October 2020

In a letter drafted in the finest legalese, acting CSA president Beresford Williams hinted that some members might be implicated in some form of wrongdoing. (Photo: Adobestock)

Cricket South Africa’s entire board has resigned, even though some will roam the game like zombies until an interim structure takes over. What made the board go after months of bloody-mindedness, and what happens now?  

Seventy-two hours after Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) board were asked, not for the first time, to step aside and, also not for the first time, refused, all 10 directors had resigned.

The announcement that Zola Thamae, Marius Schoeman, Eugenia Kula-Ameyaw and Vuyokazi Memani-Sedile were out of the game was posted on CSA’s official twitter account on Monday morning. 

They followed Beresford Williams, Angelo Carolissen, Donovan May, Tebogo Siko, John Mogodi and Dheven Dharmalingham, who quit on Sunday.

“After the Members’ Council had deliberated and resolved that in order to best serve the interest of cricket in South Africa, the entire board should resign — which they did,” CSA tweeted. “All Independent and Non-Independent Directors have now resigned.”

What cricket’s stakeholders have been calling for since December has been achieved. Now what?

CSA are nominally led by Rihan Richards, the former board member who represents Northern Cape on the Members Council — cricket’s highest authority — of which he was named president on Sunday. But Richards could be reduced to a figurehead by Wednesday.

Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa will wait until close of business on Tuesday for CSA to argue against his intervention in their affairs. Whatever they say is unlikely to cut much ice with him.

Not so fast, sports-lovers. Having allowed cricket-minded South Africans to enjoy the moment of the despised board’s demise, CSA put out a lunchtime release that said: “All resignations are with immediate effect except for three members, namely, Zola Thamae, John Mogodi and Donovan May, who will remain as directors until the interim board structure has been appointed to ensure the continuity and stability of the organisation.”

The release also said Richards would chair this zombie board, which might not be with us for long.

Mthethwa will probably instruct the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) to establish an interim structure to control cricket, at least until CSA’s annual meeting on 5 December.

Speculation on who might be part of this body is running wild, but it seems sure to include a respected former player and a figure who has high level experience with the International Cricket Council. 

South Africans more interested in who is on the field rather than in the boardroom should be assured that the domestic season will still start on 2 November, and that England remain on course to send their men’s team to the country on November 16 to play six white-ball internationals.

But what changed between the Members Council asking the board to go at a meeting on Thursday night, and being rebuffed, and Monday morning?

Because the players in this contest wear collar and tie and not pads and helmets doesn’t make the question any less intriguing.

The answer could lay in the weakness that has been baked into CSA’s organisational design. The same Members Council that asked the board to resign includes six now former board members — who opposed the proposal when it was debated.

But they were outvoted by the eight people on the Members Council who were not on the board, and it was resolved that the board should be asked to relinquish their positions. 

That put the suits who were on both structures in an invidious position. They couldn’t very well refuse to enact, at board level, a Members Council resolution they had been part of, even though they had dissented. Once the decision to ask the board to quit had been made they were duty bound to walk the Members Council’s talk.

Even so, except for Williams, the non-independent directors will remain on the Members Council as provincial representatives. 

That no doubt accounts for the jarringly touchy feely tone of other CSA tweets on Monday: “The Members’ Council thanks every member who diligently served on the Board and selflessly sacrificed their time for extended and often, overwhelming periods, to assist [CSA].

“The Members’ Council appreciates their commitment to cricket and despite the turbulent economic climate, CSA, under their leadership, received an unqualified audit for the financial year ending 30 April 2020. The council wishes them well in their future endeavours.”

The undearly departed directors should be under no illusion that that sentiment is shared in the provinces from which most of them came, and to which they owed their places on the board.  

“It’s a sh*t show,” Garrett Perry, the vice-chair of the Nelson Mandela Bay Cricket Association and the president of Port Elizabeth Cricket Club, told Daily Maverick on Monday.

“Maybe it’s because there are people in important positions at CSA who have never played the game, or maybe because they are trying to make as much as they can out of cricket.

“But you get the feeling that people who do want to give back to the game and want to do the right thing — people like [former acting chief executive] Jacques Faul — are worked out of their positions.”

Independent directors are not part of the Members Council, so aren’t subject to the kind of pressure faced by non-independents. 

But when the independent Dharmalingham — the only director who was willing to resign on Thursday — went on Sunday, the other independents, Schoeman, Kula-Ameyaw and Memani-Sedile, had nowhere to hide.

Dharmalingham, who chaired the finance committee, and Schoeman, who was in charge of the social and ethics committee, brought competence to a structure in dire need of exactly that. But the removal of Kula-Ameyaw, the transformation chair, will not be lamented.

Faul’s resignation on 17 August is understood to have been fallout from the publication in the Sunday Times of a full-page advertisement that cost CSA R521,000 — and which was placed at Kula-Ameyaw’s insistence.

The chief financial officer and the chief executive were required to approve expenditure of that size. Pholetsi Moseki, the CFO, at first opposed it but then made a curious about-turn. Faul was never in favour and maintained his stance. The advertisement was published nonetheless.

Dharmalingham boxed clever in his explanation to parliament on October 13: “As a non-exec director, we do not have any mandate to authorise any expenditure. So, from that perspective, Dr Eugenia could not have authorised that expenditure.

“In terms of the process within the organisation, any procurement goes through procurement and, depending on the quantum — and in this case, the quantum was such that it had to be approved by at least the CFO and the CEO — in this scenario, it was actually approved by the CFO and it was done within his mandate.”

The fact that Faul did not sign the purchase order, as he would have had to do for the money to be spent legitimately, was conveniently glossed over.

By then, it was plain Kula-Ameyaw was ill-suited to her role. On 28 August she told a press conference: “What I don’t like about cricket is they don’t predict how long they will play. Football is 45, 45 [minutes]; then you are done. I only watch the highlights of cricket, not the whole game. I don’t have time for that.”

On 16 September, after Momentum, one of CSA’s few remaining sponsors, said they were ending most of their relationship with cricket, she tweeted: “Momentum forgets that we invest hundreds of millions in Momentum in our SOE [state-owned enterprises] and pension funds. I remember asking for the BBBEE [broad-based black economic empowerment, and affirmative action policy] certificate in my other board.”

Momentum are a Level 1 Contributor in BBBEE terms, the highest certification there is, and they have a BBBEE recognition level of 135%.

Kula-Ameyaw had ended her tweet: “Just check before you make an irrational decision.”

Sound advice. Clearly, it was not taken. DM

 

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