What was the point of it all?

2013-01-11 00:00

IF I were retired Judge Chris Nicholson or Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, I would be seething, but about turns from Cricket South Africa are hardly surprising anymore.

Having worked through the Nicholson Committee of Inquiry that looked into the affairs of Cricket South Africa (CSA), I could feel there was a genuine sense of hurt and a longing to get the game back on track by Nicholson. His knowledge of the game and the nuances of the difficulty of governing a game that suffered the most under apartheid was beyond outstanding. His questioning was one of deep romance with the game and a willingness to rid the game of its rogue elements, which were threatening to undo the hard work of the players on the field.

The process of the inquiry was tenuous and often took place in the searing Pretoria heat in the middle of summer. Whether you’re a journalist, lawyer, accountant general or judge, it took its toll on all involved, and when the report eventually came out, it should have closed the chapter on a sordid chapter of cricket administration in post-isolation South Africa. A sport whose fissures and cracks that were poly-filled over was now given the chance to tear down its walls and build afresh. If only we lived in a fairy tale where we woke up with all the vestiges of what was just a nightmare. But then again, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Wednesday’s board meeting should have been about adopting the one-key recommendation of the Nicholson report — the appointment of an independent chairperson with an independent board. The idea behind that is very simple: not letting the board hold sway, as was seen when they ran amok during Gerald Majola’s reign. While I have a lot of respect for the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (yes, they have their own skeletons in the closet), I was perplexed by their back-room quietness during the Nicholson process. As the major sporting body just below Mbalula’s office, if they had an objection to the lessening of provincial presidents as stated in the report, why didn’t they kick up a fuss in the first place? Yes, they had reason to intervene in Norman Arendse’s chairpersonship saga, as CSA’s old grudge with him should not have been allowed to play a part. But then muck-raking politics in South African sport are as much a part of life as the horrible road accidents we encounter every festive season.

A big, unwieldy board was part of the rot that festered during Majola’s tenure, and how Sascoc wants more “amateur” directors, instead of the more manageable five-five split recommended by Nicholson, leaves more questions than answers. What was the point of letting Nicholson recommend a streamlined, cost-effective board when you will want a bigger board that will be increased in the future? The purpose of the whole inquiry has been defeated, and all the time and money gone into it has been a bit of a waste.

Then again, it’s also macabrely understandable that CSA would always rock to Sascoc’s hand on the cradle, because they, not the Department of Sports and Recreation, have the power to play God and remove CSA’s soul.

It should not have come down to such a scenario, but that is the quandary facing CSA. As good as Mbalula’s department has been, the most they can do is shout from the pickets and bark like dogs chasing a moving car.

It is a shame that so much work will go unrewarded and the less said about the sparkling on-field performances, in spite of the turmoil, the better. The feeling remains though: what was the point of it all?

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