Heaven knows we have been responsible for more controversy than we would have thought.
JOHANNESBURG – A “toxic and difficult environment” at Cricket South Africa has added significantly to the challenges the interim board of directors appointed by Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa has faced in its attempts to fix the organisation.
“Heaven knows we have been responsible for more controversy than we would have thought,” the board’s chairman, retired constitutional court justice Zak Yacoob, remarked in another candid engagement with the media on Thursday.
To all the other controversy, Yacoob added the suspension of two board members. In the case of Xolani Vonya, the former president of Easterns Cricket, it always seemed likely he wouldn’t be able to serve the board properly. Having been suspended by his own province, it was strange that the rest of the Members Council even nominated him for the board in the first place.
Easterns have made Yacoob aware of their concerns and also submitted a forensic report that outlines allegations of mismanagement by Vonya.
Omphile Ramela, the former president of the players union, the SA Cricketers Association, is the other member suspended, and even Yacoob was moved to express his shock at Ramela’s conduct during board deliberations. “He was very obstructive,” said Yacoob.
“We spent two hours discussing whether he would accept majority rule. He says when he says things are right they are right and therefore everyone must listen to him. He’s a young man, who believes that every word that comes out of his mouth is the biblical truth and that if anybody begins to disagree with a word he says you are greeted with a great deal of anger.”
Ramela believes he is being victimised. “When it comes to majority decisions, (being in the) majority does not mean you are right. That’s just the reality of the situation. I’ve got no issue with majority decisions, but we must take the right decisions.”
“I’ve been constantly asking the tough questions,” Ramela said later yesterday. “Some people are comfortable with that, some people are not. That’s been my position on the board. Everyone knows I ask the tough questions, but it seems my colleagues weren’t happy with that.”
Ramela has approached the Members Council about his suspension, but not Mthethwa.
“The reality is that I’m not saying I’m right and they are wrong, I’m saying let us go through a process, and if my colleagues are right and I’m wrong, so be it, but I don’t see why we should not be submitted to a process by some of the issues I’m bringing to the the fore.”
Yacoob’s major concerns regard the time that the board has at its disposal to work through the plethora of issues it was mandated to do by Mthethwa.
“The (board) meetings last hours and hours, to deal with obstructive people, who keep saying they don’t understand this or they don’t understand that when things are completely explained,” said Yacoob. “We judged that the chance of finishing our work was lessened considerably by these obstructive tactics. My own view – not the view of the board – I suspect very strongly that obstructive tactics have been specifically designed to hold up the board so that we can do very little in the three months. Every such obstructive tactic will fail miserably.”
Ramela doesn’t feel he was being obstructive. “When it comes to matters of the law you must follow process and procedure, it doesn’t matter the time constraints. Rather speed up the process but you can’t short circuit the process. We have time constraints but I don’t think we are short of time.”
The interim board met with the Members Council – the highest decision-making body in CSA, made up of the provincial presidents – on Wednesday evening. Cricket SA’s acting president Rihan Richards described that meeting as “robust and very constructive.” Richards said “a lot was achieved,” adding he felt the council and board were “making a bit of progress.”
Yacoob did not concur. “I’m not as optimistic as Mr. Richards,” he said. “It’s a toxic and difficult environment.”
Yacoob specifically pointed to the suspension of company secretary Welsh Gwaza last week, painting a picture of how trust is clearly lacking between the board and Members Council.
“There was a great deal of animosity at Wednesday meeting at the beginning, with many members taking over the same precise points, which is very interesting because they have not been at our meeting but they were points of procedural fairness … which worried me a great deal because it seemed they understood matters of procedural fairness much better than we did. And yet we have two reasonably good lawyers on our panel; we won’t act improperly and badly.”
Yacoob confirmed that Gwaza inquiry would take place next week and will be run by an independent arbitrator.
“Our work is hard and difficult,” remarked Yacoob. “We cannot be nice to everybody, we have to be fair and completely firm and in those circumstances there will be a great deal of kick-back, because people generally don’t like to be spoken to in a straightforward manner.”
“We have come into the habit of courtesy, false courtesy sometimes, and being nice to everybody … I’m afraid to admit I have not been made that way.”