England should make sure to check the forecast before they board their charter flight on Monday for a men’s white-ball series in South Africa. Not the weather report: the political prognosis for what is suddenly the home side’s most anticipated engagement since the end of isolation in 1991.
The World Cup holders remain on course to play three matches in each format at Newlands and in Paarl from November 27. Team management told Cricbuzz on Sunday they were, at this stage, proceeding as planned. But the trip could be wasted if CSA’s members council continues to refuse to recognise an interim board proposed by government in the wake of CSA’s chronic failure to manage its affairs.
Multiple governance crises and dwindling finances have plagued the game for more than three years, prompting Nathi Mthethwa, the minister of sport, to intervene. But the members council, CSA’s highest authority, is digging in its heels.
The interim board says the members council led it to believe the new structure would be recognised. But, on Wednesday, the members council wrote to Mthethwa to say it would not appoint the board. The members council met on Friday, and pivoted to say it would reconsider its position if Haroon Lorgat was removed from the board over perceived conflicts of interests arising from his tenure as CSA chief executive.
And that despite the fact that, earlier on Friday, the leader of the interim board, former Constitutional Court judge Zac Yacoob, rubbished the idea that Lorgat was too conflicted to serve on the interim board. Lorgat had offered to resign and was persuaded to stay on by the board.
The members council and the interim board were due to meet on Sunday. If the interim board still isn’t appointed – on Friday there were only three votes in favour of doing so – Mthethwa may lose patience with CSA’s stalling tactics and take control of the game, which he is empowered to do by law. That could spell the withdrawal of CSA’s privilege of calling its teams national representatives, meaning the matches against England would not be considered official internationals. If, indeed, they are played under those conditions: England would likely balk at the idea of friendlies. Aborting the tour would cost CSA USD4.2-million in broadcast revenue.
With England due to go into a bio-secure bubble at a Cape Town hotel for 10 days, there is time for that scenario to develop. Or for enough pressure to mount on the members council to force it to do what many consider the right thing.
Mthethwa has shown patience, not least because the members council is elected by CSA’s provincial affiliates. Removing it would raise questions about government’s respect for the democratic process and could be resisted in the courts. The counter argument is that the members council has made an unmitigated mess of stopping the buck and should be taken out of the equation before it causes or ignores more harm than the game has already suffered under its watch.
The only stakeholder in South African cricket that wants the members council to stay on is the members council itself. And powerful figures in CSA’s executive management, particularly company secretary Welsh Gwaza, who have the ear of the members council.
The 10 days of England’s quarantine could shake South African cricket’s world. What will be left standing? Perhaps nothing, but that would be better than the wreck it is now.