The suspended CEO, Thabang Moroe, appeared to behave like more like Hlaudi Motsoeneng than a sports administrator, banning journalists because he didn’t like what they were writing
Things usually move as slowly as an eight-ball over in SA cricket. Except, of course, on the rare occasions when they don’t — when they move at the speed of a Dale Steyn yorker.
Last week was one such instance, a week in which intrigue, speculation, resignations and the loss of a key sponsor culminated in Cricket SA (CSA) deciding to put its CEO, Thabang Moroe, on "precautionary suspension".
If it seemed like it happened suddenly, it hadn’t. The crisis was months in the making, and was made up of many little things that had either gone wrong or were going wrong. CSA’s entire governance system began inexorably caving in long ago.
The revoking of five journalists’ accreditation was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Remarkably, on radio, Moroe said their accreditation was revoked because "we’re not happy with how [they were] representing us in the public".
Before that, there lay a story of dysfunction truly remarkable, suggesting that comparisons between Moroe and the SABC’s Hlaudi Motsoeneng were more accurate than hyperbolic.
Consider the state of the organisation. When Moroe’s suspension kicked in on Friday morning, six members of his staff were also suspended, including his COO, Naasei Appiah, and Appiah’s secretary, Dalene Nolan.
Things haven’t been looking rosy on the financial front for months. Moroe’s organisation is likely to lose R1bn in the next four-year budget cycle as it remains locked in a six-month court battle with the SA Cricketers’ Association (Saca), the players’ union. It is a battle CSA will probably lose as it has repeatedly missed deadlines to file answering papers — likely Moroe’s doing.
Then in September, CSA decided to lock horns with the entire Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA) board, suspending all 13 of its members. Courageously, WPCA fought back, when CSA accused it of "trading in distressed conditions".
The matter went to mediation, then arbitration. In November, Philip Ginsburg, a senior counsel, ruled that the WPCA board should be reinstated, with costs against CSA worth R1.5m being awarded. Another body blow for CSA.
This was the deep context to Moroe’s "precautionary suspension", but it still needed several other factors to come into play before he was pushed out. In the space of 48 hours last week, three independent directors on the CSA board resigned, including Iqbal Khan, the most senior of those independents and head of the financial subcommittee.
"I can no longer be held accountable for the misconduct of the CEO," wrote Khan in his resignation letter, as he went on to detail "widespread credit card abuse" in the organisation. (Never mind that Khan was a central player at CSA when these governance lapses took place.)
Then Standard Bank, which sponsors the men’s national side, suddenly discovered its conscience. It announced last week that when its contract with CSA comes up for renewal in April 2020, it would not seek an extension.
But the bank’s press release seemed confused. It had, it said, been the sponsor "for a long period" — which is rather like saying that Lord’s in London is a long way from Eden Gardens in Kolkata. "We are immensely proud of the many milestones reached," said the bank’s chief marketing officer Thulani Sibeko, without saying what it was proud of.
Would one of those "many milestones" be the fact that the Proteas finished seventh in the World Cup in June? Or perhaps Standard Bank was thinking of the home and away Test losses to Sri Lanka in the past 18 months?
Standard Bank couldn’t name "many milestones reached", perhaps because there have been precious few of them recently. But let’s not let the facts get in the way of a heartfelt press release.
Jacques Faul, the CEO of the Pretoria-based Titans, has now been appointed acting CEO of CSA. Perhaps top of his list for trying to woo Standard Bank back is to tell it diplomatically that Faf du Plessis is captain of the national Test side, called the Proteas. They play something called "Test cricket" which can last five days and still not result in a, well, result.
It’s not an entirely new gig for Faul, who was the interim CEO seven years ago, after Gerald Majola departed, but he’s unlikely to be sitting down to a full Christmas dinner with all the trimmings in the coming weeks, given how much work he has to do.
Top of that to-do list will be to appoint Graeme Smith director of cricket, an appointment that will be good for the fans and players. He will also need to mend relationships with Saca, and find a way to monetise the Mzansi Super League — something Moroe and his cronies were unable to do. Then he must start forging a more equitable relationship with India’s administrators.
That should take him until about Boxing Day.