It is five months to the day that former Cricket SA chief executive Thabang Moroe was placed on ‘precautionary suspension’ on 6 December last year, with the CSA board some way off discussing the yet-to-be-completed forensic audit of his affairs, writes LUKE ALFRED.
Two of Moroe’s senior colleagues, former ally Naasei Appiah and Clive Eksteen, are also under forensic investigation, although the context of their suspension is different to that of Moroe’s.
Along with colleague Corrie van Zyl, who has since been quietly reinstated, Appiah and Eksteen were suspended when Moroe was still chief executive. A CSA media release at the time read that they had allegedly not paid all the money owed by CSA to the SA Players’ Association (Saca) for the 2018 Mzansi Super League (MSL).
By contrast, Moroe was later suspended by the board at the end of a traumatic week for cricket in early December that begun with the suspension of five senior journalists’ accreditation and the resignation of three board members as cricket’s credibility nosedived to fresh lows.
Moroe remains on his salary of R356,000 per month, meaning that CSA has forked out close to R1.8 million to Moroe in the five-month period to keep him out of the office.
Although there appears to be the political will to reach closure, with independent board member Marius Schoeman playing an important role between the CSA board and the auditors, the legal sanctions against the three might yet be compromised.
This is because disciplinary processes against them might not have been followed to the letter of the law, and it is complicated because while the forensic investigation by an outside firm involves all three, the reasons behind the suspensions are subtly different.
Moroe and Appiah’s alliance is worth unpacking and goes back to the latter stages of Haroon Lorgat’s period as CSA chief executive. As a then board member, Moroe sat on a vital sub-committee between Lorgat and the board, the purpose of which was to keep them informed about developments around the later-to-be-abandoned T20 Global League.
Moroe, however, didn’t attend any of these meetings.
And so bad did Lorgat and Appiah’s relationship become that the board called in Charles Nupen, a labour lawyer, to mediate between them. Nupen’s initiative failed.
Lorgat’s suspension meant that Moroe and Appiah formed a bulkhead within the organisation which the board lacked the will to address. With Appiah’s blessing, Moroe became interim chief executive post Lorgat; he was later shoe-horned into a permanent role, despite being conspicuously underqualified for the job.
The paw-paw really began to hit the fan in 2019, as CSA’s losses started to mount and morale in the office plumbed new depths, with Moroe and Appiah almost single-handedly bringing the governing body to its financial knees.
Among other notable achievements, they insisted on the commercially foolhardy decision to show the first two editions of the MSL live on SABC, although the public broadcaster could not pay for those rights. They also decided on the unprecedented step of arguing that the WP Cricket Association (WPCA) was trading under ‘distressed conditions’, which allowed them to exercise their ‘step-in rights’ and suspend the WPCA board.
After being suspended, the WP Board took CSA to court and were subsequently vindicated when a senior counsel found their suspension by CSA was invalid.
Possibly the most damaging aspect of Moroe’s mad reign was the fact that CSA was in the midst a long-running feud with the SA Players’ Association (Saca) when the CSA board finally pulled the plug on his colourfully destructive career.
The Saca matter, which revolved around the possible expansion of the first-class format without Saca buy-in, found its way to the South Gauteng High Court before it was amicably resolved with Moroe out of the way.
Saca brought the High Court action against CSA at the beginning of the Proteas’ World Cup campaign in June last year, insisting that their timing was co-incidental. That campaign showed the Proteas to be team haunted by a fear of failure: they lost their first three matches – against England, Bangladesh and India – which effectively put paid to their tournament as they finished seventh, their worst-ever World Cup result.
There were widespread resignations after the tournament, with long-standing team manager ‘Doc’ Moosajee and media manager Lerato Malekutu both calling it a day. Ottis Gibson, the then national coach, was also fired, as were his coaching staff including his assistant, Dale Benkenstein.
At the time of Moroe’s ‘precautionary suspension’, CSA urged ‘all our stakeholders to allow this process to unfold’. They also undertook ‘to provide updates on this matter’ but have not once issued media statements on the forensic team’s progress.
When seven questions about the forensic audit were sent to CSA head of media and communications Thami Mthembu, he responded by saying that, unfortunately, CSA could offer the public no details at the moment.
‘The three people you have mentioned are still on suspension and we are not in a position to offer any more granular details on the various cases until all the investigations have been concluded,’ he replied. ‘The forensic audit is ongoing and South Africans are indeed assured that once the findings have been tabled with the board, which should be in June, CSA will release a full statement in line with the remedial recommendations.’