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England's tour of South Africa at risk unless interim board ratified

Sports Minister could withdraw recognition of CSA, which would leave South Africa without an official team

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Ben Stokes hammers one over the leg side  •  Getty Images

Ben Stokes hammers one over the leg side  •  Getty Images

England's white-ball tour of South Africa, which starts at the end of the month, could be at risk of being called off unless Cricket South Africa's Members' Council tonight ratifies the interim board South Africa's sports minister Nathi Mthethwa imposed on the organisation two weeks ago.
Yesterday, the Members' Council made public its decision not to appoint the interim board citing an inability to work with them. Mthethwa has since threatened to sanction CSA, which includes withdrawing recognition of them as the game's official governing body in this country, if they do not allow the interim board to proceed. Should CSA's Members Council not relent and Mthethwa intervene, South Africa will not have a official team to represent the country, thus making the England tour impossible.
"I don't know what the thinking is in England but if the Members Council does not take a proper decision this evening, England will probably be seriously discouraged from coming," Judge Zak Yacoob, the chair of the interim board, told the media.
CSA's Member's Council - the highest-decision-making body in the organisation which is made up of the 14 provincial presidents - meets tonight and has so far, shown no signs of willingness to co-operate with the interim board.
England are due to arrive in South Africa on Monday for a 10-day quarantine period with fixtures scheduled to begin on November 27.
"We hope that CSA recognises that giving us the authority to work properly is a smaller disadvantage to them and to cricket than the minister withdrawing recognition," Yacoob said. "It would be sad if the minister has to proceed in terms of the legislation. That is going to be the fault of the Members Council and that is for the Members' Council to answer to."
Further, should Mthethwa take drastic action, that may prompt the ICC to step in as its constitution prohibits government interference in any of its members. However, in order for the ICC to consider a sanction against CSA, a member has to make a formal complaint or there must be exceptional circumstances. Yacoob said that the CSA Members' Council have already indicated they would do such, as they view the interim board's appointment as interference, but Yacoob has urged the ICC not to view it as such. "We would make it quite clear that the minister's appointment of the board does not amount to interference and if CSA contends that, it would be continuing in its misleading attitude," he said.
Mthethwa has kept the ICC abreast of all his communication with CSA and intention to act in cricket and Yacoob added that he would be willing to enter into personal communication with the ICC to explain the situation. "One of the things the proposed board might be able to do, if the minister asked us to do so, is to approach the ICC and persuade it to hold on and not to do anything at this stage," Yacoob said. "I am quite happy to personally approach the ICC in order to persuade them that the minister's conduct does not amount to interference because it does not."
However, even if ICC chooses to slap its own sanction on CSA, Yacoob believes the blame for that would lie squarely with Members' Council. "If the ICC steps in now, it would be because the Members' Council improperly resisted a reasonable effort to fix things," he said.
For that reason, the interim board aims to continue to push the Members' Council towards working with it, by any means available to them. "There is very much we can do to pressure the members' council to recognise us. We are going to keep the pressure absolutely on at every level to ensure that they are pushed to cooperate with us," Yacoob said.
Although the Members' Council does not recognise the interim board at the time of writing, Yacoob said the board itself will continue to operate "although it is difficult for us," in the best interests of cricket. "We want to make sure the players remain interested and organised and committed. It would be a shame if we don't do well in cricket because of the nonsense that is going around cricket," he said.
Meanwhile, the South African Cricketers' Association have expressed their 'despair and disbelief' at the Members' Council refusal to recognise the interim board and have begged them to reconsider. "We have addressed formal correspondence to the Members' Council advising them of our dismay at their decision, and highlighting their disregard for the welfare of players in passing this decision," Andrew Breetzke, SACA CEO said. "Self-interest and politics are continuing to triumph over the best interests of cricket, at a time when the game is crying out for stability and certainty. It would appear as if the Members' Council do not realise the extent of the damage being done to cricket, and sadly we are reaching a point where that damage may be irreparable. We have been in this state of crisis for over 18 months, and the window of opportunity to change direction is closing fast."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent