Sport

SA CRICKET CRISIS

CSA’s Members’ Council sets the sport on course for international isolation

Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa. (Photo: Flickr / GCIS)
By Craig Ray
18 Apr 2021 1

South African cricket faces international suspension after Members’ Council refuses to accept constitutional changes to modernise and improve its failing governance.

Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa has put cricket’s recalcitrant so-called leaders on notice. He intends to invoke his office’s considerable powers and strip Cricket South Africa (CSA) of its right to run the sport in the country, which would essentially mean the Proteas are no longer recognised as South Africa’s national team. 

This dramatic step has come about after the CSA Members’ Council (MC), the highest decision-making body in the sport, refused to accept changes to its Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI), despite agreeing to do so after months of negotiation. 

A Special General Meeting (SGM) held last Saturday was supposed to be little more than a rubber-stamping of changes to the MOI. The most significant change was that a future CSA board of directors would have a majority of independents in line with a 2012 report by Judge Chris Nicholson. 

But after statements a week earlier from both Mthethwa’s office and CSA’s interim board (appointed by Mthethwa in October 2020) that the MC had agreed to the new direction, the dysfunctional body failed to reach the 75% majority to make the amendments pass. 

In a further display of its self-interest, the MC held the ballot in secret. Why? The only conclusion to be drawn is that those union presidents fighting for their own personal survival are not brave enough to make their anti-change position public. 

Only six members (43%) voted for the changes, five voted against and most shockingly, considering the importance of the vote and what was at stake, three presidents abstained.

Mthethwa reluctantly stepped in 

Mthethwa stepped into CSA’s affairs only in October 2020 in an attempt to establish stability and a path forward for the beleaguered organisation. It had become clear CSA could not self-correct and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), South Africa’s sporting mother body, was ineffectual with its half-hearted efforts. Sascoc is, after all, an organisation with massive governance issues of its own. 

Mthethwa appointed an interim board to stabilise a CSA that was paralysed operationally and managerially, and as has become clearer, morally and ethically too. 

“Minister Mthethwa has expressed his disappointment at the failure of the CSA delegates to adopt the revised MOI. The revised MOI that the affiliates decided against adopting, constituted an agreement between the CSA Members’ Council and the interim board,” a statement from Mthethwa’s office read on Sunday after the vote. 

“Accordingly, any failure to ratify such an agreement entered into by a duly authorised MC representative can only be interpreted as acting in bad faith. 

“This turn of events, taking place at the back of several missed opportunities by the Members’ Council, has left the minister with no further option but to exercise his rights in terms of section 13(5) of the Sports Act. 

“To this end, the minister will be taking the necessary steps required to exercise his rights in terms of the law prescripts next week.” 

Suspension from ICC and international isolation could follow 

What this means is that CSA will no longer be recognised as cricket’s governing body. It is essentially a government takeover of cricket, which puts CSA in breach of the International Cricket Council (ICC) regulations. 

Clause 2.4(D) of the ICC constitution states: “The member must manage its affairs autonomously and ensure that there is no government (or other public or quasi-public body) interference in its governance, regulation and/or administration of cricket in its cricket playing country (including in operational matters, in the selection and management of teams, and in the appointment of coaches or support personnel).” 

Mthethwa has written to the ICC m0re than once to keep it informed about the situation at CSA, but even so, the Proteas’ teams at all levels are in danger of losing international status. 

The MC could lodge a formal complaint with the ICC that it is the victim of government interference, but that is unlikely to save it from suspension. 

In 2018, Zimbabwe’s national government dissolved the Zimbabwe Cricket Board, leading to an ICC suspension until that interference ended. 

The difference here is that Mthethwa never wanted to become involved and stepped in only when it became obvious that CSA was unable to remedy itself after years of poor governance, which has been exacerbated by a structure with two centres of power (the MC and board). 

“What happened today was extremely disappointing and certainly not in the best interests of cricket,” CSA interim board chairperson Stavros Nicolaou said after the vote. 

“A minority of the Members’ Council (has) yet again shown itself to place self-preservation ahead of the interests of the game and indeed, the national interest. This minority is determined to hold the game — and the country — hostage.” 

Members’ Council attempts to hide behind Sascoc demand for ‘process’ 

At Saturday’s meeting, several MC members asked that Sascoc president Barry Hendricks be allowed to address the meeting. He was there as an observer and it was presented as a spur-of-the-moment “courtesy”, but was in fact an orchestrated move by the MC dissenters. 

Hendricks opined that “proper process” had not been followed. Hendricks claimed that the amended MOI had to be approved by Sascoc before being sanctioned by the MC. He reminded that Sascoc could “suspend, fine and terminate the membership” of CSA if that did not happen. 

After Hendricks’s remarks at the SGM, Mthethwa bristled: “Under normal circumstances the concerns the president of Sascoc raised should be the case, but this situation is extremely abnormal. 

“We have gone a long way on this matter, and it’s a matter that Sascoc failed to deal with to start with. We are now at the point of intervention by the Sports Minister (which was overlooked in Hendricks’s detailed explanation of process), we have covered a lot of ground and dealt with issues along the way. 

“This is the point we are at now. We have done everything and we cannot go back now and reverse where we are (because of Sascoc’s sudden concern). I have made this point and communicated it to Sascoc and to other parties about what is happening. We are at the point of intervention.” 

Nicolaou also revealed that Mthethwa wrote to Hendricks on 12 April, when it was made clear that it was now a Ministry of Sport matter. 

“The MC has been aided and abetted by Sascoc, whose intervention in the CSA SGM today was totally unacceptable and indeed appeared orchestrated,” Nicolaou said. “Fortunately, members of the media were present at the SGM to ensure the public will be informed as to what happened today.

“The board believes that the minister was left with no option but to invoke his powers in terms of the act. The board remains concerned that the impact of the Members’ Council actions will have serious consequences for cricket’s stakeholders, specifically grassroots cricket and sponsorship contracts. The minister’s action must, however, now take its course.” DM

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