Explainer: What’s happening in South African cricket?

South Africa players © Getty Images

Nathi Mthethwa, the Sports Minister of South Africa, invoked Section 13(5) of the National Sports and Recreation Act on Friday (April 23), a move that could derecognise Cricket South Africa (CSA) as the official body that runs cricket in the country. However, it will be in effect only after being published in the Government Gazette, which should happen this week.

So, what would the sports minister’s intervention mean for South Africa as a cricketing nation and how it will affect the sport and the players in the country? Leading broadcaster from South Africa Natalie Germanos explains:

What does Mthethwa’s action mean?

Unfortunately, within CSA, the interim board and the members council just could not come to an agreement. Even after we heard from the members council that they were going to be signing the new Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI), they had a Special General Meeting (SGM). And it didn’t really make a difference in the end because that SGM didn’t go very well at all. They voted not to adopt the new MOI. So, the sports minister Nathi Mthethwa eventually came and said ‘I’m stepping in and I’m going to exercise my powers under the Sports Act in South Africa’, which is actually an amended act, it wasn’t originally there when we first adopted the new Sports Act in the early 90s. This is being amended in the early 2000s to allow the sports minister to have the possibility of stepping in when need be.

He felt that he had been through everything that he could, taking all the steps that he could over the last year or so to try and resolve the problems of CSA been through, with South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) which is our Olympic body. Unfortunately, it just felt like they were just never getting anywhere and the sports minister said ‘It’s time for me to step in, I’m exercising my powers under Section 13 (5) and it’s going to mean that I am now going to start derecognising CSA’. That is obviously that is devastating for so many reasons. The national teams not being able to compete, job losses, etc. Everything it is means chaos basically within South African cricket.

Is SASCOC’s involvement good or bad?

Even though it’s not an Olympic sport CSA answers to SASCOC. So, when there are problems within CSA, they have to answer first to SASCOC. SASCOC falls under the sports minister. He basically stepped in and said this was initially around the Fundudzi Report. They released it after some intervention from SASCOC.

We had some recent results from that Fundudzi Report where a few things were resolved out of court and they all came to separate agreements. But that was initially. Because they couldn’t agree on the new MOI, the minister installed the interim board, which is currently in place, last year.

That interim board has been working to try and resolve problems within CSA. But unfortunately, they’ve been at loggerheads with the members council, which is where we found ourselves on Friday and had gone on to a stage where they couldn’t come to an agreement and signing that new MOI.

© Cricket South Africa

When would CSA legally be derecognized?

If the Section 13 (5) goes through, if it gets gazetted, it will legally de-recognize CSA. It would mean they get no funds either, which is an issue with CSA currently, as funding is tough. It would mean they probably lose all the sponsors, too. So going forward, it’s almost impossible to do anything as a sport. Then it would be up to the ICC as to what they would then do, because will they construe this as government interference? The ICC does not allow for government interference.

Will it hamper South Africa’s participation in ICC events?

The sports minister has been constantly in contact with the ICC. He’s been talking to them and letting them know about his moves and the reasons behind doing so, and he’s kept a good communication up with them. We obviously don’t know for a fact that the ICC would then ban South Africa from competing. That would obviously be something that they would need to discuss and they’d have to say whether or not this is real government interference, because as the ICC has previously said, not all government action is government interference and warrants a ban. We would have had to obviously wait from that point of view and it’s highly likely that it would mean a ban by the ICC.

What will it mean for players?

From the players point of view, it means losing contracts with CSA, obviously losing salaries. That would be an issue for a lot of players, in particular for the woman, because it’s very difficult for them to make ends meet when they’re not getting the contracts that they have from CSA. I can only imagine the stress they must have gone through over the last few months when they’re trying to also display their best on the field. But a ban for South Africa would be absolutely dire from the players point of view.

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Will it result in loss of jobs?

From point of view of operations, the CSA staff has done an incredible job to to keep that place running and under severe stress. Now you’re facing a situation with these people that they might end up losing their jobs and it stems down as well. It will eventually filter down to provinces, more than likely because of the loss of sponsorships. You’re going to have so much less money and any money that CSA gives to the individual provinces as well, that won’t be there. It would result in serious job losses.

The members council and interim board have agreed on the MOI, haven’t they?

This is something that should have happened a long time ago and we should never have got into this situation. So, from an administration point of view, it’s great that they’ve finally come to an agreement, but it should never have gotten to the stage. I can only hope that they’ve learned from their mistakes and they will. They’ll take this forward, but it’s not over 100 per cent yet. I know a lot of people are saying on Twitter, well, we’ve averted the crisis, etc. At first this MOI has to come through and they’re saying it’s going to come through in the next 48 hours.

There’s obviously a few things that need to be ironed out – red tape, probably some legal issues, etc. – and making sure that everything is actually above board and right. And then obviously it’s up to the sports minister to approve and decide whether or not he’s going to pull the section 13(5) and have it gazetted. So, we will have to wait and see what the MOI says officially.

P.S. Members’ council of Cricket South Africa (CSA) has unanimously agreed to accept to new Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI), CSA announced on Wednesday (April 29). The sports ministers have been informed of the development and this would likely avert the derecognition.