COMMENT | Let the will of the cricket people prevail

A general view of the Cricket South Africa headquarters in Johannesburg. The writer says sports minister Nathi Mthethwa is politically interfering in internal affairs of the organisation.
A general view of the Cricket South Africa headquarters in Johannesburg. The writer says sports minister Nathi Mthethwa is politically interfering in internal affairs of the organisation.

Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa is a seasoned politician and should know that the decisions of the majority must be accepted and respected‚ no matter how one feels about them.

The cricket people‚ represented by their elected officials on Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) members council‚ have exercised their democratic rights‚ leading to the spoilt special general meeting at the weekend‚ where they voted against amendments in the constitution‚ to allow for a majority independent board and an independent chairperson.

The members council is made up of the 14 affiliates presidents‚ who were elected into office and carry mandates from their respective constituencies across the country‚ and is CSA’s highest decision-making body.

Let the will of the cricket people prevail. Accept and respect the wishes of the majority‚ no matter how you feel about them.

There is no sports federation in the country that has a majority independent board led by an independent chairperson. I make my point later on why I believe CSA should stick with its board composition of five independent directors and seven non-independent directors.

The major federations‚ Safa‚ SA Rugby‚ Netball SA etc have no such majority independent boards. Why does the minister‚ and his interim board‚ insist this must happen‚ only at CSA? What is it about cricket that the minister is willing to give his interim board a free pass to override decisions of the majority.

Sascoc itself has only two independent directors out of 13 board members. The Sascoc constitution is clear that any changes to the MOI of its members‚ including CSA‚ must be submitted to Sascoc for consideration and approval.

This means the minister’s problem is now with Sascoc‚ and no longer with the CSA members council‚ who voted according to what the Sascoc constitution provides for.

What must happen now is that the CSA members council should submit the proposed MOI amendments to Sascoc for consideration and approval. End of story. There is no other way around it and the interim board ought to have known this fact.

So after the SGM failed to amend the MOI on Saturday‚ Mthethwa then told the members council on the following day that he was left with no choice but to invoke his powers in terms of section 13(5) of the sports act‚ and withdraw government funding and recognition of the organisation.

In a letter to the members council on Monday‚ Mthethwa confirmed he still had not invoked powers bestowed on him in section 13(5)(c)(i) – (i) of the sport act‚ but said that he has reached a stage where he is required to do so and gave the members council a 5pm deadline on Tuesday to reconsider its position.

What happened to accepting and respecting the will of the majority?

“Before doing so‚ I call upon the MC to show cause by no later than 17h00 on Tuesday 20 April 2021‚ why I should not invoke my powers in terms s13(5)(c) of the act by inter alia (a) directing SRSA to refrain from funding CSA‚ (b) notifying CSA in writing that it would no longer be recognised by SRSA‚ (c) publishing my decision as contemplated above in the Government Gazette at the earliest opportunity‚” Mthethwa threatened the members council in his letter.

What the minister did not say to the members council about the same section 13(5)‚ I suspect deliberately‚ is that in terms of (b) (i) and (ii)‚ the minister may not‚ firstly: “intervene if the dispute or mismanagement in question has been referred to Sascoc for resolution‚ unless Sascoc fails to resolve such dispute within a reasonable time; and secondly‚ the minister may not “interfere in matters relating to the selection of teams‚ administration of sport and appointment of‚ or termination of the service of‚ the executive members of the sport or recreation body”.

Mthethwa‚ addressing the CSA SGM immediately after Sascoc president Barry Hendricks had warned the members council that the MOI amendments cannot be passed without the involvement and approval of Sascoc‚ dismissed Sascoc’s input and said the sports umbrella body had “failed” to deal with the matter in the first place. But that is not true.

Yes Sascoc may have officially handed the CSA debacle to the ministry‚ citing lack of resources and after the then CSA board refused to hand over the Fundudzi report to them‚ but that did not give the minister a right to force the cricket body to vote in a manner that would have put them at odds with Sascoc.

Did Sascoc fail to deal with the proposed amendments to the CSA MOI?

The answer is a resounding no‚ because Sascoc is yet to received the proposed amendments at the time of publishing this article. How can they have failed when they have never seen the draft MOI amendments.

Mthethwa‚ as the political head of the sports‚ arts and culture department‚ should stop interfering and allow Sascoc to go through the proposed amendments on the CSA MOI‚ as per the Sascoc constitution. Let the will of the cricket people prevail. Accept and respect the wishes of the majority‚ no matter how you feel about them.

Given that Sascoc itself does not have a majority independent board and an independent chairperson‚ only a reckless gambler with little regard for his money will believe its membership will agree to such a farce. But matters are expected to come to a head at a Sascoc General Assembly on May 8‚ where the motion is set to be buried when it is likely to be put to a vote.

It is undisputed that the members council has not always covered itself in glory‚ like when they dilly dallied when the only logical recourse was to dismiss the Chris Nenzani-led board. But it is equally a devious misrepresentation of the truth‚ by some sections of the media‚ and sports minister Nathi Mthethwa and his interim board‚ to lay the blame for the failure to adopt the proposed constitutional amendments solely at the door of the members council.

At any given time‚ CSA has always had five independent directors who were advocates‚ chartered accountants‚ HR gurus‚ and governance and administration gurus in their own rights.

These five independent directors chaired key committees such as the audit and risk committee‚ social and ethics committee‚ finance and commercial committee and Human Resoruces and Remuneration committee – where governance really happens.

So how does CSA find itself in a crisis‚ which the interim board would like to have us believe can apparently only be solved by having a majority independent board and an independent chairperson‚ when it had five independent directors at all times with corporate and governance skills and expertise?

These five independent directors ought to have played their oversight role‚ in conjunction with the then Chris Nenzani-led board‚ to ensure that the organisation does not find itself in the crisis it is in‚ including making sure there was consequence management for any executive or staff. Where was the governance oversight from the independent members?

CSA’S governance machinery does not need a majority independent board to function properly. CSA needs independent directors with unquestionable integrity and‚ sadly‚ the majority on the organisation’s interim board do not even have an inkling of that fundamental characteristic for an administrator in their veins. Sadly‚ the majority of past independent directors also lacked this essential trait.

Let the will of the cricket people prevail. Accept and respect the wishes of the majority‚ no matter how you feel about them.