Barry Hendricks, President of Sascoc, and Nathi Mthethwa, Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture. (Photos: Wessel Oosthuizen / Gallo Images | Photo: Gallo Images / Jeffrey Abrahams)
In what appears to be the final beating of a dying body, Cricket SA’s Council of Members has made a last-ditch effort to rebut a mandate from the Secretary of Sport to establish an independent administration.
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
When Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa stepped in late last year to create some sort of balance for Cricket South Africa (CSA), his mandate was clear. An interim administration was appointed with the task of resolving the myriad governance issues that had undermined the organization to the point that it was practically paralyzed, both operationally and administratively.
The key point in the mandate given to the interim board was to adopt the findings of the 2013 Nicholson report in the state of CSA and appoint a new board with a majority of independent directors.
This was no secret and since October last year, not only the Members’ Council, the highest decision-making body at CSA, but also the public.
But at a meeting with the Interim Board on Tuesday to finalize the details of the changes to the Memorandum of Association (MOI) that would ratify the framework for establishing an independent board, the Members’ Council declined to sign.
DM168 has been informed that 11 of the 14 union presidents who make up the Council of Members would disagree with the change. Their reasoning has been clouded as there is no reason to hesitate beyond the desire of various individuals to retain power as board members.
Being a director entails payment and status, which is difficult to give up. But it must also be about putting cricket first, which seems to be the last thing some Members Council deputies think about.
Minister Nathi Mthethwa has given the interim administration a clear mandate to restore cricket’s reputation in South Africa and internationally, board chairman Stavros Nicolau said in a statement.
In addition and crucial here is the restoration of good governance within the game. The Interim Administration has been clear in accepting its mandate and has always been committed to carrying out the mandate given to it by the Minister and endorsed by the Council of Members on behalf of the people of South Africa.
In the joint meeting, the interim board and the members council discussed the composition of a future board. A non-negotiable principle is that each future council consists of a majority of independent members, he said.
This is a universally accepted principle of good corporate governance and best practices not only in South Africa but around the world. It’s also a core recommendation of the 2013 Nicholson report.
Undoubtedly, cricket finds itself in the current mire of dysfunction due to a lack of independence from the board.
The failures of good governance and accountability at CSA in the past have led to a decline in our international reputation as a cricket-playing nation and our ability to influence the course of the game worldwide. The Interim Administration therefore insists that cricket cannot afford to maintain its governance status quo. There was disagreement between the [interim board] and Members Council specifically on the concept of having an independent majority of governance, Nicolau said.
In search of the opinion of Sascocs
The Members’ Council argued weakly that the South African Sports Association and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), the umbrella body under which all unions fall, would not accept a new MOI based on the Nicholson report.
Sascoc president Barry Hendricks denied this was the case when approached by DM168, preferring to play a dead bat.
We haven’t seen a draft proposal from the MOI yet, so we can’t comment, Hendricks said. When pushed for the MOI amendments to be well-documented and based on Nicholsons recommendations and a mandate from Mthethwa, Hendricks reiterated the position.
The reality is that Sascocs’ role in this impasse is largely irrelevant. The Interim Administration is mandated to perform a variety of tasks, with the appointment of a largely independent board at the top of the list.
Anticipating the impending deadlock when the Members’ Council stalled in signing the MOI amendments, the Interim Administration released a series of non-negotiable resolutions on March 11, reiterating its powers and mandate.
The board, the directors of the company hereby decide that in order to establish an appropriate board framework through an amendment to the CSA MOI, there are certain fundamental principles of governance that are non-negotiable, the letter to the Council of Members said.
These concepts are taken from Nicholson’s recommendations. Failure to adhere to one or more of these core principles would mean that the interim administration cannot fulfill its mandate and therefore raises questions about the need for the survival of the interim administration.
The non-negotiable matters mentioned were:
A majority of independent directors on the restructured board of CSA;
The division of roles between the chairman of the council of members and the chairman of the board;
The chairman who chairs the council of members and an independent director who chairs the board;
The board nomination committee must include a majority of independent directors to appoint future independent directors; and
The powers and duties of the Members’ Council and the Board must be clarified to avoid the existence of two centers of power.
If the Members’ Council does not accept the changes to the MOI, this will almost certainly lead to Mthethwa taking over the leadership of CSA. That would put CSA in violation of the rules of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Clause 2.4 (D) of the ICC Constitution states: The member must manage his affairs autonomously and ensure that there is no interference from the government (or any other public or quasi-public body) in its governance, regulation and / or administration of cricket in his cricket playing country (also in operational matters, in the selection and management of teams, and in the appointment of coaches or support staff).
If Mthethwa is forced to intervene in CSA matters, he will do so under the National Sport and Recreation Act.
The law does not specifically allow the government to take full control of a sports body, but gives the minister ultimate power not to recognize that body and cut back on funding.
That essentially means that the Proteas would no longer be South Africa’s national cricket team in this case.
Within the meaning of the law, the minister may not interfere in matters pertaining to the selection of teams, the management of the sport and the appointment and termination of the service of the executive members of the sports or recreation body.
However, he is authorized to notify the national federation in writing that it will not be recognized by Sport and Recreation South Africa. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers with this Pick n Pay stores
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