“The single most important thing to happen to cricket since unity,” was how the head of sponsorship at one of Cricket South Africa’s major backers described the election of five new independent board members to me.
But while the announcement that Absa’s Louis von Zeuner would chair the new CSA board, alongside four other independents and five elected members from the cricket fraternity, had me longing for the day when rugby and football would follow suit, the gravy-train brigade were already beginning the onslaught against progress.
Norman Arendse, the former CSA president, set the ball rolling with all manner of threats and allegations because the current board did not see fit to approve his appointment as recommended by the “Independent” Nominations Committee (INC).
The INC ignored the stipulation that the nominees could not have had any official involvement with cricket over the last three years, possibly because three of them are Western Province-based, where Arendse is an honorary life member.
They had no qualms about disqualifying SK Reddy, a wonderful servant of the game in KwaZulu-Natal, using the same technicality.
After being snubbed, Arendse used the race card, which is bizarre, because white voters are in the minority on the CSA board and the majority of the independent nominees are non-white. He then complained to the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).
Sascoc, that bastion of squeaky-clean administration, will now be investigating whether CSA, by daring to move with the times and opt for professional, independent leadership, have broken Sascoc’s rules and done enough to be suspended. Because of this, the CSA AGM that was scheduled for Saturday and would have elected the remaining five, non-independent board members, has been postponed – and there is even the possibility that the Proteas will be stripped of their national team status.
The motives of Sascoc and their CEO, Tubby Reddy, are not clear; but they were firmly on the side of Gerald Majola during the bonus scandal investigation, with Reddy even suggesting to me that the forensic reports just needed “a bit of editing” and everything would be sorted out!
Sascoc are facing a lot of heat over the way they spend money, with the impression being that administrators are leeching off cash-strapped sports for their own benefit.
To not allow people like Arendse to run cricket is exactly the aim of the new independent board structure recommended by Judge Nicholson and implemented by CSA.
While Majola obviously used CSA as his own fiefdom in order to enrich himself financially, it is the hunger for power that characterises Arendse, and he would use the sport for those ends, as he did while he was president in 2007/8.
Arendse says he resigned as president, but that was in the face of an overwhelming vote of no confidence that was already on the table. And the board turned against him not because of any transformation issues, but because Arendse was power-hungry, was interfering in the selection of the national team and was bullying players via text messages.
When the advocate wanted Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher dropped from the team for the 2007 ICC World T20 tournament, it had nothing to do with transformation. Instead, it was just determined by his wishes, based on his own opinion of cricketing merit, never mind that selectors are appointed for that job.
Likewise, when Charl Langeveldt bravely turned down his selection to tour India instead of Andre Nel on the basis of colour, he was subjected to the most horrific bullying by Arendse.
I have had first-hand experience of Arendse’s venom. During his last days as president, he tracked down my e-mail address and sent me the following abuse on September 19, 2008:
“Your typically cowardly piece will impress very few readers. Most know you’re an excuse for a journalist, let alone [a] sports journalist.”
I look forward to further correspondence.
Since his departure from cricket, Arendse has not been wandering in the sporting wilderness. He tried to get into football administration, but was shown the door when he stepped on Irvin Khoza’s turf, and he has continued to play a Machiavellian role in the highly-politicised Western Province cricket circles.
People like Von Zeuner and the other independents – Wesizwe Platinum’s Dawn Mokhobo, Constitutional Court Trustee Vusi Pikoli, Old Mutual COO Mohamed Iqbal Khan and global business leader Geoff Whyte – have little to gain from cricket and much benefit to add through their exceptional skills.
Previous experience (especially the Majola saga) shows that people who are voted on to the board through cricket structures – the clubs and provinces – always owe somebody something and tend to make decisions for the good of their constituency, not the game as a whole.
The South African Rugby Union is finding it exceptionally hard to run the game as efficiently as possible in this country for the same reason: 14 board members all pulling in different directions to look after their own interests, as seen in the Lions/EP Kings fiasco.
The five non-independent board members will provide whatever cricket-specific knowledge is necessary, but they cannot dominate the more “common sense” input provided by the independents.
The words of Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards, ahead of their special general meeting on Thursday that elected a new, independent board, are food for thought for those who wish to get in the way of similar progress in South Africa.
“Australian cricket needs a governance that the modern sport deserves as a highly-professional, major player in the global sport and entertainment arena. But we are no longer a group of stand-alone states seeking to collectively organise international cricket matches – we are increasingly thinking and acting as one unified national sport facing increasing competition for the public’s attention and support,” Edwards said.
Hear, hear. DM