Chris Nenzani stepped down as the Cricket South Africa (CSA) president on Saturday, three weeks before his term was due to end. Nenzani has been under increasing pressure in the face of administrative upheaval and left his post within hours of the organisation sacking its chief operating officer Naasei Appiah, and a day before the men's national squad begins a culture camp. The post will remain vacant until CSA's annual general meeting on September 5.
Appiah, along with former head of sales and sponsorships Clive Eksteen, who was dismissed in June, is taking CSA to court to contest the decision to sack him. Appiah was found guilty of "transgressions of a serious nature". Meanwhile, suspended CEO Thabang Moroe met with CSA last week but his case did not reach resolution. It is expected to conclude this week and ESPNcricinfo understands Moroe is likely to be dismissed as well, on the evidence of a forensic audit, which CSA commissioned when Moroe was suspended last December.
A CSA statement, issued on Monday morning, gave no reason for Nenzani's exit, and thanked him for his time in office. "Mr. Nenzani has provided valuable leadership, insight, assistance and direction in advancing the game of cricket with a focus on achieving transformation and access for the majority of the South African population," the statement read.
Not everyone feels that's enough, though. "Given what has happened over the last nine months, the president owes stakeholders an explanation for why he is stepping down now," Andrew Breetzke, SACA CEO, told ESPNcricnfo.
Nenzani had been in the position since 2013 and served two three-year terms, the second of which was extended through a change in CSA's constitution in 2019. That gave Nenzani an additional 12 months, to see CSA through a difficult period. But he has since said he regretted staying on.
It is also during this time that Nenzani has come under the heaviest criticism. Since December last year, CSA's disputes with the South African Cricketers' Association (SACA), initially over a proposed domestic restructure which has since been repealed and then over unpaid commercial rights' fees, came to a head, three independent and one non-independent board member resigned, a major sponsor - Standard Bank - opted not to renew their deal and seven staff members, including Moroe, were suspended.
A common demand among the players' body, the board members who walked away and commercial partners was that Nenzani step down because of his role in the administrative crisis that ensued when Moroe was appointed on a permanent basis in July 2018.
Under Moroe, CSA launched the Mzansi Super League but were unable to sell television rights for the two editions played to date, costing them in access of Rand 200 million (USD 11.49 million approx.). Additionally, CSA is forecasting losses of Rand 654 million (USD 37.58 million approx.) over the four-year cycle ending in April 2022, but is expected to report a profit for the 2020 financial year. In an attempt to mitigate against the losses, CSA proposed a new domestic structure, which would eliminate the franchise tier of the current system. SACA argued that up to 70 cricketers could lose their jobs if that happened, and took CSA to court to prevent the changes and rescinded when CSA U-turned on the restructure.
Moroe also sought to overhaul the national men's team structure, with a view to appointing a team director to replace the head coach and a director of cricket. He courted Graeme Smith for the latter role but Smith only signed on after Moroe was suspended and then did away with the idea of team director, appointing Mark Boucher as head coach. Despite that, South Africa endured their worst summer since readmission, winning just one of the five series they played in.
The waters have remained choppy since the Covid-19 outbreak, which has seen the Black Lives Matter movement take centre stage in South African cricket. In recent weeks, former players and current coaches of colour have flooded the media with stories of exclusion and blamed the administration for not doing enough to create an environment that was comfortable for everyone.
Nenzani was interviewed by Marawa Sports Worldwide last week and conceded that CSA had missed an opportunity by not appointing Geoffrey Toyana as head coach when Ottis Gibson got the job in 2017, an admission which prompted a fresh round of criticism on Nenzani's leadership. Despite CSA's assertion that Nenzani played a positive role in advancing transformation - under him a black African quota was introduced in 2013 and targets were increased the following year - Nenzani has found himself in the midst of the racial schisms currently playing out.
Nenzani has undertaken to address the media at the conclusion of next month's AGM where a new president is expected to be named. The president is chosen from the group of provincial presidents who sit on the CSA board (five of the 14 provincial presidents are members of the board) and there is no obvious candidate to replace Nenzani. Vice-president Beresford Williams has been identified as a possible successor.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent