National

Stand-in cricket chief ignores mess and gets on with game

Niren Tolsi

Acting Cricket South Africa president Willie Basson has been tasked with repairing the organisation and restoring South African cricket's image.

New acting Cricket South Africa (CSA) president Willie Basson has a job not dissimilar to that of Harvey Keitel’s character, Mr Winston Wolfe, in Quentin Tarantino’s film Pulp Fiction—a clean-up of the sports body’s affairs, which, according to retired Judge Chris Nicholson’s ministerial committee of inquiry, resemble the bloody mess all over the back seat of hit men Jules and Vince’s car.

But Basson, who will fill the post until elections in September, likened the next few weeks at the CSA to a more genteel game of chess.

“Now that CSA has committed itself to the recommendations of the Nicholson report, they will have to decide on its practical implementation [at the board’s meeting on March 30],” Basson said.

Another important date looming is April 9 when the CSA has to report to Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula on its plans in response to Nicholson’s recommendations.

Presidents look for their mandates
The provincial presidents, who make up 11 of the 22-member board, are returning to their constituencies to seek mandates.

It is a “critical” period for the organisation, according to Western Province Cricket Association president Beresford Williams.

Issues to be discussed include the disciplinary process to be followed for suspended chief executive Gerald Majola, who was found to have contravened sections 234, 235 and 236 of the Companies Act by “surreptitiously” negotiating and not disclosing a R1.75-million bonus from the Indian Premier League for South Africa to host the 2009 tournament.

Whether the CSA follows up on Nicholson’s finding that there is room to prosecute Majola, who should be investigated for contraventions of both the Companies Act and the Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, will also be determined. The CSA must also decide whether to recoup the total of R4.75-million in bonuses that was paid out to CSA employees, including Majola and former chief financial officer Don McIntosh.

Also up for discussion are whether the board should be rationalised to be more effective and should purge “parochialism”, centralised power and the potential for dispensing patronage—all maladies identified by Nicholson in his report.

With the realpolitik at the CSA likely to be as much a factor as any intention to get its house in order, it is unsurprising that Basson compared the unfolding scenario to a game in which gambits are sacrificed.

‘Transformation fund’
This week he announced that a “transformation fund” would be made available to provinces to “fill up and develop the pipeline” of players, especially “black Africans”, to feed provincial and national teams.

Basson, who was part of the transformation review commission of the then United Cricket Board in 2002, acknowledged that “sport since 1994 has shown very little progress in transformation”.

The 2002 transformation review found that development programmes “simply failed to make an impression” in black communities, something that Nicholson also criticised in his report.

Nicholson even recommended that the South African Revenue Service should review the section 21 tax breaks the CSA was receiving without apparently fulfilling its mandate to use its resources to extend and entrench the game, especially in disadvantaged communities.

In the 2010-2011 financial year, the CSA reported a profit of R295.5-million and got a R47-million tax break, but it spent only R1.25-million on development.

Perhaps a more difficult process Basson will have to manage is factionalism and the interests of the provinces and their presidents. There are questions over the majority of the board, from the presidents to the three independent “black African representatives”, some of whom have held their positions for a long time but do not appear to have added impetus to the transformation agenda.

They also have not shown moral strength—they did not challenge the findings of the discredited Khan Commission, headed by former president Abdul “AK” Khan, who resigned last week. The commission recommended that Majola should be reprimanded for his actions.

All but one got rid of Nyoka
With the exception of Northerns president Vincent Sinovich, the rest of the board late last year also passed a vote of no confidence in former CSA president Mtutuzeli Nyoka, who has been trying to highlight the maladministration in cricket.

Newer board members said the CSA had adopted a wait-and-see approach, hoping that some “would do the honourable thing and resign”.

Factionalism appears to be rife in the CSA—Mbalula last year criticised “Jewish” and “Indian” cabals for vying for power to such an extent that good housekeeping was debilitated.

Basson said a realistic approach was required. “Lobby and interest groups exist in all organisations — I accept that it is there and will deal with it if needs be. That is what leadership is about —

“But the important thing is that we don’t take our eyes off the ball. Perhaps that is what has happened recently and that is why we are in the situation that we are in at the moment,” he said.


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