State control of cricket in South Africa looms in the wake of the sports minister telling crisis-ridden CSA that he will intervene. A release from the ministry to that effect on Wednesday (October 14) comes in the wake unsuccessful attempts by the country’s sports confederation as well as parliament – themselves models of how organisations should not be run – to bring the problem child of cricket to heel.
Under the minister’s direction, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) told CSA’s board and key staff to relinquish their positions, pending a month-long investigation, on September 10. That has not happened, and CSA’s meetings with a parliamentary oversight committee on October 6 and 13 have not yielded evidence of progress.
The release spoke of “efforts … made over several months to try and assist CSA to stabilise its governance matters” and of “a huge outcry regarding the failure of [CSA’s] leadership to effectively manage its affairs”. Both are fair criticisms of an organisation that has stumbled from one catastrophe to the next in governance, ethical and financial terms.
“Having evaluated the discussions as well as the subsequent reporting on this matter, I have now reached a point where I see no value in any further engagement with CSA,” the release quoted sports minister Nathi Mthethwa as saying. He had “given notice of government intervention to the ICC”, and CSA have until close of business on October 27 to “make written representations, should they wish to, on why [Mthethwa] should not exercise his decision to intervene as enjoined by the laws of the country”.
The National Sport and Recreation Act says the minister may “after consultation … intervene in any dispute, alleged mismanagement, or any other related matter in sport or recreation that is likely to bring a sport or recreation into disrepute”. He may not become involved if the matter has been referred to SASCOC, unless SASCOC “fails to resolve such dispute within a reasonable time”. He also may not “interfere in matters relating to the selection of teams, administration of sport, and appointment of, and termination of the service of, the executive members of the sport or recreation body”. But he can cut off government funding and “notify the national federation in writing that it will not be recognised by Sport and Recreation South Africa”. Effectively, Mthethwa has the authority to tell the Proteas they are not South Africa’s team.
CSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment beyond saying it would issue a statement. But in a letter to Mthethwa dated October 9, which has been seen by 24newsreads.com, acting president Beresford Williams wrote that the board “are of the view (and have been advised) that you do not have power, in terms of the National Sport and Recreation Act 110 of 1998, to require members of the CSA board to ‘step down’. Furthermore, we are of the view that such a requirement probably constitutes government interference in CSA’s governance, regulation and/or administration, as contemplated in the memorandum of association of the ICC and, as such, interferes with CSA’s contractual obligations to the ICC and jeopardises CSA’s continued membership of the ICC.”
Asked for its opinion, the ICC has yet to respond. But its constitution makes plain that a member is obliged to “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)”.
No doubt that’s why Wednesday’s release makes the point that “Mthethwa strongly believes that there is great merit in creating an environment where sports problems are handled within the sports movement and accordingly wishes to offer them every possible opportunity to demonstrate their stated commitment to cooperate on a way forward for cricket”.
CSA has done the opposite at every turn. Tellingly, it had to be bullied into handing over to parliament – for all its failings still the people’s representative – the complete version of the Fundudzi forensic report, which was used to fire Thabang Moroe as chief executive, implicates others in potential wrongdoing, and lays bare a litany of maladies.
CSA’s hopes that England will visit in the coming months, which could be worth the equivalent of USD4.2-million to the home board, now hang by a thread. And that’s not all that is in danger: the game of cricket as South Africans have come to know it seems on the cusp of radical change. It’s a measure of the size of the mess CSA have made that that may be no bad thing.