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South African sports minister warns CSA of 'defunding' and 'derecognising'

The board faces prospect of being stripped of status as the game's governing body next week

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Keshav Maharaj accounted for Abid Ali and Babar Azam, Pakistan vs South Africa, 2nd Test, Rawalpindi, 3rd day, February 6, 2021

The sports minister's intervention will have seismic implications on the game in the country  •  PCB

Cricket South Africa (CSA) is on the verge of being stripped of its status as the game's official cricketing body, as the Sports Minister prepares to intervene in the ongoing crisis - potentially as soon as next week - by "defunding" and "derecognising" the body. Such a move, which the minister Nathi Mthethwa warned of in a letter to the interim board and Members' Council, will have seismic implications for the game in the country, not least for the immediate futures of the national teams.
In the four-page letter, Mthethwa outlined his reasons for acting, and concluded: "In the circumstances, I have decided to invoke my powers under the Act [which allows ministerial intervention in a sporting body] and I hereby notify you that I have done so…. by de-funding and de-recognising CSA, and I will cause this to be published in the Government Gazette in due course at the earliest opportunity."
There is some wriggle room in the publishing of such an order in the Gazette. Government Gazettes are published every Friday, which effectively gives the Members' Council one week in which to agree to the sticking point in this crisis - the new memorandum of incorporation which will include the framework for a majority independent board.
The interim board called it a "sad day" for the country, and specifically for its cricketers. It also made it clear that it was down to the Members' Council to salvage the situation. Forewarning the impact of such an act, the interim board chairperson Stavros Nicolau said in a press conference on Thursday, "We are in a situation where a minister is in a position to trigger measures he has and powers he has at his disposal in term of the Act. The consequences of those would be dire for cricket - financial, economic, developmental and sporting consequences. It would plunge cricket into crisis."
The basis of the ongoing disruption lies in the reluctance of the Members' Council to agree to a majority independent board ,even though it had done so as far back as 2012 in the aftermath of that year's bonus scandal - ostensibly because they want cricket to be run only by people involved in cricket structures, rather than by business people from the outside. CSA have been embroiled in administrative issues for the last 18 months and have rotated through three different acting CEOs following the suspension and subsequent dismissal of Thabang Moroe for misconduct.
The interim board added in a statement: "It is deeply disappointing that a self-interested vocal minority voted against change while three members chose to abstain. These actions have now brought the game to its knees and will cause the greatest crisis since readmission."
The men's national team is not in action until June, when they are due to play in the West Indies in a series rescheduled from last year. The women's team have no major assignments until the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup next year. It is unlikely any such act will have an immediate impact on South Africa's players currently taking part in the IPL.
Mtethwa also wrote that the ICC will be informed "of my decision and provide them with my reasons for doing so".
That will likely open up a new phase of involvement from the global governing body who, so far, have observed the situation rather than take any direct action. Government intervention in running cricket has usually drawn sanction from the ICC but, with such prominent members, it has not always been so straightforward.
In a statement reported earlier this week, the ICC said it "encourages Members to work with governments to resolve issues. Not all government intervention is problematic and for the ICC to get involved it requires a formal complaint from our Members that it is unwanted. Should that happen we will evaluate the situation based on the facts provided and plan an appropriate course of action."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent