Let the purge of the power drunk at Cricket South Africa begin. The game deserves better, even at the expense of an international ban, writes RYAN VREDE.
Cricket South Africa’s Members’ Council has prioritised a retention of their power over the game they have a mandate to serve. It is likely to trigger an international ban, which is significant, especially with the T20 World Cup on the horizon.
This situation was created by the Members’ Council – comprised of 14 affiliate presidents plus the president and vice-president of CSA – who voted against the amendment of the Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI) which would have established a majority independent board, as was recommended in the Nicholson Report of 2013.
Their obstructionism would have been understandable, had they led with distinction. Instead deep dysfunction defined this body and the game they are supposed to serve, suffered as a result. It is the reason the government, led by Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, intervened initially.
The Members’ Council have been given ample opportunity to comply, co-operate and collaborate with the Mthethwa-appointed interim board. Indeed, on 10 April they appeared to have surrendered their resistance and accepted the recommendation of a majority independent board.
Yet at Saturday’s Special General Meeting (SGM) the retention of power trumped the welfare of cricket, prompting Mthethwa to hit the nuclear button by invoking his powers in terms of section 13(5) of the National Sports Act which allowed him to ‘notify the national federation in writing that it will not be recognised by Sport and Recreation South Africa’.
An international ban is almost certain, given that the International Cricket Council (ICC) constitutionally forbids governmental interference. In reality, this isn’t interference – it is an intervention, one the game in South Africa desperately needed.
It will dismantle a toxic body. The Members’ Council was set up for maximum power retention with almost no accountability. It appoints the CSA Board, which in turn oversees all executive functions. These two centres of power have operated with almost zero oversight. As it stands, the MOI allows for the Members’ Council president to also chair the board.
Given this governance structure, it should be easier to understand why the Members’ Council would be so vehemently opposed to a majority independent Board.
Indeed, they have offered absolutely no legitimate reason for their stance. They are so drunk on power that they are willing to sacrifice the game’s very future to retain that power.
However, the Members’ Council has now found a determined and powerful foe in Mthethwa. His predecessor, Fikile Mbalula, didn’t have the appetite for this fight and relented meekly when the Members’ Council refused to implement the recommendations from the Nicholson Report.
Mthethwa has exhibited an unfathomable degree of patience with the Members’ Council. He has met their obstructionism with firm but measured corrective action. This was generous treatment for a body completely devoid of innovative, skilled and visionary leadership.
Now Mthethwa has grown tired of their refusal to relinquish power in favour of a more transparent, accountable and structured governance. His intervention puts the ball in the ICC’s half, and it remains to be see whether they dispatch South Africa over the boundary of international cricket, or allow the delivery to pass to the ‘keeper.
Those who haven’t followed this story, tracked it’s timeline or understood the nuances therein have decried government’s intervention. I understand the sentiment, as I do the underlying fears. Government intervention is usually accompanied by corruption and further destruction of the body they were tasked with saving from those ills.
There is a chance this could happen in time, but as it stands, the Interim Board – many of whom I’d make an educated guess would fill independent seats on the new CSA Board – is populated by highly competent and skilled individuals. They’ve dropped some balls, but overall they have been decisive in critical areas, including investigating and suspending executives who’ve contributed to CSA’s rot, tackling legal matters that are stealing time and money, and confirming a new domestic structure for cricket.
At this point, there is no reason to doubt Mthethwa’s motives, given that his leadership on this issue has always been guided by the Nicholson Report’s recommendations.
The alternative to Mthethwa’s intervention, and a subsequent international ban, is that South Africa is allowed to compete internationally, while the game dies at the hands of an incompetent and self-serving Members’ Council.
That, it is self-evident, is no option at all.