Cricket SA media boss blamed for ban on journalists
Former president tells investigators that Thamie Mthembu apparently acted without a mandate
Cricket SA’s communications boss Thamie Mthembu ordered the revocation of media accreditation of journalists without authorisation from now fired CEO Thabang Moroe, Business Day can reveal.
Former Cricket SA president Chris Nenzani told Fundudzi Forensic Services investigators in June that Mthembu acted seemingly without a mandate from the executive committee or Moroe, who was his line manager.
The revocation of media accreditation of five journalists was the cornerstone of the eight charges that Moroe faced and eventually led to his dismissal. Nenzani’s revelations have punched more holes in Cricket SA’s case against the former CEO.
The incident took place in the last week of November. By December 1, the organisation’s governance and controls malfunctioned with board members resigning en masse.
Moroe shouldered the blame as head of operations, and apologised unreservedly for the error of judgment, although he had earlier mismanaged a radio interview on the matter.
Nenzani, who resigned on August 17 before Cricket SA were to hold their annual general meeting on September 5, met the Fundudzi forensic investigators in June to give his input of a sequence of events.
It is understood Cricket SA’s exco had a discussion during that chaotic week in December on how best to manage bad press. The organisation felt there were journalists who were unfairly critical and needed to be tamed.
This is according to Cricket SA sources, who spoke on condition their names were not revealed for fear of victimisation as they are not authorised to speak to the media.
“There were discussions at executive committee level on revoking accreditation of critical journalists. Members were divided in the middle over the issue,” said one source.
Another source said the CEO and his executive management team were “shocked” after learning in the media of the revocations.
“There was a scheduled meeting which was to make a final call on how Cricket SA was going to deal with critical journalists, but Mthembu somehow jumped the gun.”
Mthembu, now acting as chief commercial officer, did not respond to questions sent to him on his e-mail address and WhatsApp.
Transcripts from a two-day session Nenzani had with the Fundudzi forensic investigators illustrate what went on behind the scenes after the revocation of accreditation of certain journalists.
“It was not a mandate of the [Cricket SA] board, nor was it a mandate from me,” Nenzani responded to the three-man panel of directors from Fundudzi.
Nenzani said he was in Cape Town at the November 22-24 weekend when journalists phoned him about the revocation of media accreditation.
“I was not aware of this and I checked with the CEO. He confirmed what had happened, and he said it was done by the media manager, and he said he is going to deal with it, and take full responsibility for it,” said Nenzani.
“When the CEO said to me [that] it is a matter that was handled by a manager in the media department I then said he needed to attend to it, because my manner of operation [is that], I must deal with the CEO so that the CEO deals with his staff.”
Asked during the consultations if the media manager and the CEO should both take responsibility, Nenzani said: “They will be responsible for this action.”
One of the forensic investigators jumped in and wanted clarity from Nenzani on whether Moroe indicated if he was the one who mandated the media manager (Mthembu) to revoke the media accreditation, or whether Mthembu acted on his own accord.
“No, let me give you this background,” Nenzani responded. “I was phoned on a Monday afternoon, by journalists, and on Wednesday I was [back] in Joburg. But I had an opportunity to be smarter and I had also spoken to him (Moroe) on the afternoon of that particular Monday.
“And he said to me on both occasions, that he was not aware of this [revocation], but it was done by the media manager [Mthembu], and then the issue from my side was deal with it, and he said he will deal with it and take personal responsibility.”
It is understood Moroe demanded a full explanation and report from Mthembu, but was suspended before he could do anything.
During Nenzani’s reign as president from 2013 to 2019, cricket journalist Telford Vice, who worked for the Sunday Times at the time, was removed from the Cricket SA media mailing list.,
Nenzani was board chair and Haroon Lorgat CEO at the time. Vice’s censorship was eventually lifted after mediation.
Lorgat denied on Tuesday that Vice’s removal from the mailing list was tantamount to a ban.
“Telford was definitely not banned. He was only removed from the e-mail list,” Lorgat said on Tuesday.
Asked why Vice was removed from the mailing list, Lorgat said: “There are lengthy submissions to his bosses including the legal head. Cricket SA explained in detail the reasons why. We thus never reported to either the Press Council or the Editors Forum. You should get hold of the correspondence from TimesLIVE to understand it fully. They and Telford were provided with countless examples of inaccurate reporting and why CSA took issue.”
Vice said during a radio interview at the time that “Cricket SA didn’t like my reporting on the bonus scandal involving Gerald Majola. And of course once the king was dead and there was a new king it was fine to be nasty about Gerald Majola. Now they don’t like my reporting on the BCCI/CSA situation. There has been a lot of dishonesty I must say in the way that has unfolded.”
Cricket SA did not respond to questions sent on Tuesday on why the organisation did not impose punitive measures on the board of CEO Lorgat.
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