Backroom success keeping up with Proteas on the field

On the same day the Proteas bowled the West Indies out for just 97 on the first day of the first Test in St.Lucia Cricket South Africa confirmed that one of the key figures behind the wretched boardroom misery for the last two years had been dismissed after a prolonged disciplinary hearing.

CSA Company Secretary, Welsh Gwaza, has had his hand silently, invisibly but increasingly firmly on the rudder of the organization as it headed towards the rapids. He smartly kept a low public profile but his internal influence was everywhere, the only man to sit on every committee and the man to whom president Chris Nenzani’s and CEO Jacques Faul’s official emails were directed when they resigned. On his instruction. 

CSA’s Interim Board instituted disciplinary proceedings against Gwaza on 30th November last year and he was suspended, on full pay, immediately pending the determination of the disciplinary enquiry which was set to begin on December 14. Gwaza’s legal team applied for a postponement to the 17th. It was the first of many such applications.

“You would not believe the tactics and reasons he and his lawyers conjured up to delay proceedings,” one member of the Interim Board said. “The Interim Board was originally appointed for three months and it is hard not to imagine that he believed he could outlast our tenure and then just carry on as he had been doing.”

But Sports Minister Nathie Mthethwa extended the IB’s tenure three times meaning there was no ‘escape’ for Gwaza. It total, between numerous delays and postponements, his disciplinary hearing spanned 10 days over the four months between December and March.

It was presided over by senior Johannesburg counsel, Advocate Terry Motau SC. It was quite a charge sheet: 

Charge 1 – gross insubordination and/or insolence in respect of Mr Gwaza’s interactions with members of the interim board of directors. 

Charge 2 – breach(es) of the provisions of the Companies Act, and Mr Gwaza’s failure and/or refusal to disclose relevant information. This charge consisted of various sub-charges in which it was alleged that Mr Gwaza misconducted himself with regard to the following transactions/scenarios: 

a.  representations made to the International Cricket Council; 

b.   the appointment of People Link and Ms Chantel Moon; 

c.   the conclusion of the Framework Agreement between CSA and Global Sports Commerce; 

d.   CSA’s exercise of its “step-in” rights in respect of the Western Province Cricket Association; and 

e.   CSA’s exercise of its “step-in” rights in respect of the North-West Cricket Union. 

Charge 3 – gross misconduct and dereliction of duty. 

Charge 4 – breach(es) of CSA’s Code of Ethics. 

An official statement from the Interim Board was barely less forthright than the unofficial comments, although far more amusingly verbose: 

“Regrettably, the expeditious finalisation of proceedings sought by CSA was regularly compromised by Mr Gwaza and his legal team, who took various opportunities to raise speculative technical points and launch numerous and ill-advised interlocutory applications which often required several unnecessary postponements of the matter. Mr Gwaza’s intermittent unavailability to attend proceedings, as well as that of his witnesses, also contributed to the overall delays in these proceedings. But for this, proceedings would have been concluded much sooner,” the statement said. 

Although it can tricky reading ‘tone’ in written comments, it was hard not to hear some exasperation in Advovate Motau’s quotes: “I have endeavoured to be as fair as possible to Mr Gwaza, and even generous in my approach to his defence, notwithstanding the impact on CSA. However, the manner in which he and his legal team have conducted themselves in these proceedings has, at times, left much to be desired.” 

Motau produced a 193-page report on May 24 in which he found Gwaza guilty on the first charge and guilty of sections a), b), c) and d) of charge 2. Consistent with their determination to be remain open and transparent , the Interim Board’s statement including a web link to the full report and an executive summary prepared by their attorneys which can be read here:  

The statement finished with Motau’s conclusion: “…given the severity and seriousness of the charges on which Mr Gwaza was found guilty, and further as there was little doubt that the employment relationship between CSA and Mr Gwaza had irretrievably broken down, the most appropriate sanction in the circumstances would be for Mr Gwaza to be dismissed with immediate effect.”

Advocate Motau also presided over the disciplinary hearings of former Commercial Officer and, briefly, acting CEO, Kugandrie Govender. Closing arguments from both sides were presented on Friday, June 11, a day before the much delayed AGM at which the Interim Board members were finally allowed to step aside and resume their normal lives. Motau’s conclusion is unlikely to be much different to Gwaza’s but it will be handled by the new board.

The Interim Board’s extraordinary final report, which was handed to Sports Minister Nathie Mthethwa earlier this week, compares the position CSA was in to ‘State Capture’ when they took over. Gwaza was at the very heart of it. In the same week that the United Arab Emirates finally agreed to the extradition of the Gupta brothers for prosecution in South Africa, after three years of obfuscation, CSA finally got rid of their own compromised string-puller.

Whereas the Guptas face a lengthy trial and, hopefully, lengthy prison sentences, there is an air of amnesty at CSA. The cost versus gain equation means it isn’t worth pursuing the legal route – although they did say it was considered. 

The removal of Gwaza and imminent departure of Govender are important for practical reasons but also, just as importantly, for symbolic ones. CSA’s AGM saw Rihan Richards installed as president with Donovan May vice-president. They were at the centre of everything that went wrong for two years and are without credit. If it was not for the removal of Gwaza there would have been a danger that confused onlookers might believe nothing had changed at all. But there is another AGM scheduled for September. Let’s see if Richards and May survive that one.     

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