CSA have appointed Dr Jacques Faul as acting CEO and are hopeful of unveiling former captain Graeme Smith as director of cricket on Wednesday. Faul replaces Thabang Moroe, who was suspended on Friday on allegations of misconduct, and whose presence was one of three reasons Smith withdrew interest in the position last month.
At a press briefing on Saturday afternoon, CSA president Chris Nenzani confirmed Faul's appointment, for a maximum period of six months, and that CSA and Smith are in "final talks," for the role. As reported by ESPNcricinfo, Smith initially discussed the position with Moroe at a meeting mediated by former United Cricket Board (now CSA) managing director Ali Bacher on August 28. Smith was due to begin work on October 1.
However, CSA then also interviewed suspended interim director of cricket Corrie van Zyl and former national selector Hussein Manack for the role, but identified Smith as their preferred candidate. On November 14, which was 11 weeks after his initial discussions, Smith had yet to receive a contract for consideration and issued a statement on social media making himself unavailable for three reasons which Nenzani recognised.
"One, he said he does not trust the operation. Two, he said he does not believe he would have enough space to do the work he needed to do such that he could not guarantee there would be no political intervention as well as executive management interference. And three, he did not trust the CEO," Nenzani said.
Nenzani travelled to Cape Town to meet Smith, along with Moroe and independent board member Professor Shirley Zinn, who resigned this week. "It was a very cordial meeting. We addressed all the issues openly and said let's move to a point where we are negotiating terms," Nenzani said.
Following Moroe's suspension and guarantees of Smith's independence, Nenzani is hopeful Smith will put pen to paper in the next three days and can begin work imminently so that South Africa can begin preparations for their series against England which starts on Boxing Day. "If you have your director of cricket in place, then your selection process is going to kick in and then your team preparation is going to kick in," Nenzani said.
Currently, South Africa do not have a confirmed selection panel or a date for the announcement of the squad (England named theirs earlier today) but it is expected that interim team director Enoch Nkwe, who took the team to India, will continue in the role.
For Faul, Smith's appointment would represent a step forward to start his tenure. "If he comes in now, at least there is some form of progress. That's what we need. We need a competitive Proteas team on the field, its very, very important. We've got to get there," Faul said.
But even if Smith was to start immediately, Faul still has his work cut out for him. CSA are facing what many have described as their worst crisis since readmission which includes a severely strained relationship with the player body, the South African Cricketers Association (SACA), a lack of sponsors with Standard Bank announcing its decision not to renew after April 2020, and a mounting debt crisis. Fortunately, Faul has seen similar seven years ago.
When he stepped into the same role in 2012, Standard Bank had pulled out, then-CEO Gerald Majola had been dismissed after the 2009 IPL bonus scandal, an independent judicial inquiry chaired by Judge Nicholson had issued instructions on how CSA's board should be set up and the organisation's reputation was on a knife edge. Faul saw them through to more stable times and though he has experience in this capacity, he acknowledged this time is not quite the same. "The challenges now are a little bit different. Then, we had Nicholson which was a clear pathway in what to do. In this case, there seems to be a lot of relationship problems that we need to sort out. It's difficult to say which one is worse, they are different," he said.
To that end, he will have assistance in the form of former ICC CEO Dave Richardson, who was not able to accept the interim position but is willing to "offer support and be available when required," according to Nenzani and from board resolutions intended to support the rebuilding process. After a meeting of the 14 provincial presidents that make up the Members' Council last night, the board has been mandated to fix its relationship with SACA as a matter of priority. "The board will be putting in place a negotiating panel engaging the arm that is going to do the actual talking with SACA. We are going to inform SACA in due course so that we are able to move together on the basis of honesty," Nenzani said.
Nenzani did not confirm what this means for the proposed domestic restructure, which aims to eliminate the six-team franchise system and put in place a 12-team provincial structure. SACA claim 70 cricketers could lose their jobs as a result and have taken CSA to court. The case is ongoing.
All that means CSA's board remains in place despite reports on Friday night that at least half the provincial affiliates, seven, were in favour of the entire board being dismissed. Instead, the members' council "supported and endorsed the board to continue in its role and move forward in its efforts to turn the organisation," Nenzani said.
CSA's board lost three members this week, all independent directors, in the wake of the current crises and Nenzani said their positions will be filled once the nominations process has taken place. The situation in CSA's office remains equally fluid. The fate of the seven suspended staff members including Moroe, van Zyl, COO Naasei Appiah, head of sales and sponsorships Clive Eksteen, finance manager Ziyanda Nkuta, procurement manager Lundi Maja, and administrator Dalene Nolan, will be decided by a disciplinary process which will be independently chaired and prosecuted.
While that plays out, CSA's focus needs to shift to the end of year tour. South Africa have lost five Tests in succession in 2019, have yet to collect any points in the World Test Championship and could face more retirements from senior personnel. Still, Nenzani remained bullish: "We will be ready to face England and we will give them a tough time," he said.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent