Bonus scandal part of SA’s ‘endemic corruption’

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

THE bonus scandal that rocked South African cricket for more than two years is typical of the corruption that has infected our society, a new book claims.

In “Deliberate Concealment: an insider’s account of Cricket South Africa and the IPL bonus saga”, Mtutuzeli Nyoka – at the time Cricket SA’s (CSA) whistleblowing president who took the lead in exposing the controversy – details dirty dealings in other administrators’ attempts to weasel their way out of trouble.

“We have a history of struggle in this country and we need to ask ourselves what we were struggling for,” Nyoka told Sunday Times.

“Was it to replace corruption with honour and honesty, or was it to replace white corruption with black corruption?”

Some R4.7-million was paid by organisers of the Indian Premier League (IPL) to CSA in 2009 in recognition of the successful staging of that year’s edition of the tournament, which was moved to South Africa at short notice.

Gerald Majola, then CSA’s chief executive, kept R1.4-million of the windfall. The rest was shared unequally among CSA staff.

However, the money was not properly declared to CSA’s governance committees, who subsequently raised the alarm.

CSA mounted an in-house probe that found no evidence of wrongdoing. They also deposed Nyoka, who took them to the High Court and won.

An investigation led by retired judge Christopher Nicholson discovered that Majola had breached the Companies Act at least four times and had billed CSA for personal travel expenses.

Majola was fired in October, 2012. He took CSA to the Labour Court and lost.

Nyoka, the author of two other books, both novels, continues to practice as an ear, nose and throat specialist in Johannesburg.

Majola, who previously lived in Johannesburg, has returned to Port Elizabeth where he chairs United Cricket Club – whose teams he and Nyoka once played for.

“Gerald Majola and I were brothers in our development,” Nyoka writes in the book. “We grew up in the same neighbourhood and were friends for a considerable and very significant portion of our lives. Much as we were not born of the same mother, as children we were nourished by the same environment.

“Yet, as men – like the biblical Cain and Abel – our values were irreconcilable, and events left us little choice but to be on the opposite sides of a protracted and dirty conflict. Curiously, I still consider it a great fortune to have shared my youth with Gerald.

“He towered over me as a sportsman. All those who witnessed his flair and dash on the sports field knew that they had seen a light of genius. He was the star, and I was just a tiny fragment in his axis – a silhouette in his luminous sporting path …

“Yet, when I looked at Gerald Majola, during the times we were publicly cutting each other up, I saw a shadow of the companion I used to have. He no longer stood upon the pedestal on which I once placed him.

“Now, I hardly recall the time when we were not warring. The innocence of our childhood has been sullied by the quarrel. This book is mostly about this schism – night falling on what was a lifelong friendship between two men and their families.”

The book has just been released, but Nyoka said he wrote it “right in the middle of the storm”.

“I think there are lessons to be learnt (from this) for the country, even for those outside sport – in society in general, from the very top to the bottom,” he said.

“It’s something that I believe seriously threatens the future of our country. Corruption is endemic, it’s like a plague.”

Nicholson found that CSA lacked oversight, and recommended that the board be restructured to include as many independent directors as the number of provincial presidents who had presided over the Majola mess.

A watered down version of Nicholson’s recommendations was adopted, and CSA’s board now comprises five independents and seven provincial presidents.

The organisation has since lurched into other controversies, including at first denying and then conceding that the board meddled in selection before the 2015 World Cup semi-final and trying to cover up proven instances of ball-tampering by the South African team.

CSA officials have offered journalists interviews in exchange for not publishing potentially damaging stories and they bully reporters who do not toe their company line.

“I can never say I’m happy away from the game,” Nyoka said. “But it’s the politics I’m talking about; the machinations, the factional fights, the pettiness, and the greed and power grabbing. That’s the stuff I’m happy I’m away from.”

Majola’s lawyer, Max Boqwana, said, “We will not be able to apply our minds to this until we have read the book. I thought this thing was dead.”

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