The disconnect between Cricket South Africa (CSA) and the South African Cricketers Associaton (Saca) widened on Thursday with the union saying it was “very surprised” to hear about the suspension of three top officials and has called for an independent inquiry.
Corrie van Zyl (acting director of cricket), Naasei Appiah (chief operating officer) and Clive Eksteen (commercial manager) were all handed suspensions on Tuesday for “dereliction of duties” related to payments associated with player image rights for last season’s Mzansi Super League.
Saca had declared a formal dispute earlier in the week over an unpaid amount of R2.4 million as per the commercial agreement, which CSA rather clearly used as leverage for sanctioning the trio.
The federation also announced it had launched an internal investigation.
Yet the players union finds it “highly unlikely” that Thabang Moroe, CSA’s chief executive, had no knowledge of the payment – which was supposed to have been made as way back as 24 December 2018 – not being completed.
In fact, Saca insists that the commercial rights agreement for the controversial T20 tournament was signed by both parties’ CEOs.
“Saca didn’t deal with Appiah on this issue and in its dealings with Van Zyl and Eksteen over many months they both expressed a strong desire to resolve the payment issue, but it eventually became clear that higher approval to do so was necessary,” said Tony Irish, Saca’s CEO.
“We think it’s highly unlikely that (Moroe) would not have been aware of this ongoing issue. He was undoubtedly aware of payment obligations as he had signed the agreement.”
The impasse was eventually solved on Tuesday when the payment was made, but CSA’s drastic action has led to renewed suspicions that Moroe could be passing the buck.
The former business analytics specialist hasn’t exactly kept his antagonism towards Saca a secret, continually stating that he believes the relationship between players and the governing body should exhibit a more traditional employer-employee dynamic.
“Saca believes that the 2018 MSL dispute and the signature of the 2019 MSL commercial agreement were only resolved because of the impending player commercial activations scheduled to take place on 30 October 2019,” said Irish.
“In the absence of an agreement CSA would not have had the rights to use the players in the activations.
“Saca also believes that CSA’s persistent refusal to comply with the 2018 MSL agreement for such a long period was simply part of a much wider, systematic attempt to marginalise Saca and the role that it plays in protecting the collective interests of the players.”
Earlier in the week, CSA explained its decision to suspend the officials as a way of “(reassuring) all cricket fans and all cricket stakeholders that our organisation and indeed our staff adhere to the highest ethical standards in all our dealings and that consistency and accountability remains uppermost in all our processes and procedures.”
Saca said it has taken note, but wants further reassurance.
“We also note the statements of CSA’s head of communications, Thamie Mthembu, that CSA’s investigation would go deeper into uncovering how the MSL dispute came about. Saca accordingly calls upon CSA not only to ensure that its investigation into this MSL issue is conducted by an independent person, or organisation, but also that an independent investigation is conducted into these related matters.
“We believe that this will ensure that the principle of accountability, referred to by CSA’s chief executive, is in fact applied equally, fairly and without fear or favour.”