South Africa news January 23, 2011

Sports minister steps in after CSA internal rifts heighten

South Africa's World Cup ambitions could be damaged by the ongoing spat between CSA's chief executive Gerald Majola and the body's president, Dr Mtutuzeli Nyoka, according to sports minister Fikile Mbalula. "Anything that has to do with internal politics will have a negative impact on our campaign," he said at a press conference in Centurion on Sunday.

The minister met with the CSA board sans Nyoka, who was invited but chose not to attend because he had other plans, during the fifth ODI between South Africa and India at SuperSport Park to flesh out recent developments in the tussle between the top brass, especially because of its timing. "Government is concerned and shocked that on the eve of the important ICC calendar event the sport of cricket in the country is thrown into disarray by personality issues," Mbalula said.

The row between Majola and Nyoka intensified last week when, on Wednesday, Nyoka was served notice of a motion of no confidence being tabled against him. The presidents of all 11 CSA affiliates signed the document which was delivered to Nyoka in the form of a letter. On Thursday, Nyoka called Majola a liar during an interview with Johannesburg-based TalkRadio702. Nyoka said Majola had deceived him about bonuses that were paid out after IPL2.

"Gerald lied to me, he misled me," Nyoka said on air. "He's the only person who told me, 'Listen, I know you might have doubts about when and whether I've taken money or not. I want to relieve you of that burden and show you this document I've signed with the IPL. There is nothing here that says anything about me receiving millions'."

Majola and 39 other CSA staff members collectively received R4.7 million (US $7671, 428) in bonuses paid out after the IPL in 2010 and the Champions Trophy in 2009. CSA's auditors, Deloitte, found a discrepancy in their financial statements in August last year and a commission of inquiry was put in place to investigate. The commission was initially supposed to be an external one, chaired by former Chief Justice Pius Langa, but was moved internally, something Nyoka was not in favour of. The internal commission, chaired by vice-president AK Khan, cleared Majola of any wrongdoing.

Nyoka has indicated that he believes the internal commission was a cover-up and lacked credibility and said so while on radio. "The issue is not going to go away," he said. "They will never be able to bury the truth. Sport belongs to the public. Cricket is not a secret society. We are not in Stalin's Russia."

Majola's only response has been to say that he is consulting with his lawyer about the allegation made by Nyoka on radio. CSA have rallied behind their chief executive, issuing a release of "reassurance" on Thursday. South Africa captain Graeme Smith came out in praise of Majola on the same day. "Gerald Majola has always backed the team to the hilt in every possible way," Smith said. "The players have great faith in him and he must take his share of the credit for the successes we have enjoyed over the last period of time."

It was this comment by Smith that attracted the attention of the sports ministry. A report in the Sunday Times said Mbalula told a commercial radio station that Smith should stay out of "politics" and concentrate on the cricket. Mbalula said at his press conference on Sunday that Smith made the statement in response to a "question that came directly to him" and that he was "simply stating his support for the leadership." Despite being satisfied with Smith's reasoning for answering the question, Mbalula said that "it is advisable that the players do not get involved."

Mbalula also cautioned against panic on the state of the game in the country, saying that the "house is not coming down" and the problems in CSA are "not insurmountable." The ministry's involvement in the matter is set to continue and they will meet with CSA again on February 12. "CSA will present the ministry with a report on the actions of the president as well as the commission of inquiry that looked into the bonus scandal," Mbalula said. That is also the date set for CSA's special general meeting to finalise the proposed motion of no confidence in Nyoka, who had earlier told the New Age that if he received written notice of a vote of no confidence, he would step down in a "dignified manner", but has shown any sign of resigning since getting the letter.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent