EXCLUSIVE | We reveal identity of CSA person behind decision to revoke journalists' accreditation - its not Thabang Moroe

09 September 2020 - 07:30 By Tiisetso Malepa
Cricket South Africa head of media and communications Thamie Mthembu (far right) poses for a photograph with the Mzansi Super League trophy with then Western Province Cricket Association CEO Nabeal Dien (left) Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato (second left) Cricket South Africa transformaion officer Max Jordaan (second right) during the Cape Town Blitz meet and greet with Mayor of Cape Town at City of Cape Town Offices on October 28, 2019.
Cricket South Africa head of media and communications Thamie Mthembu (far right) poses for a photograph with the Mzansi Super League trophy with then Western Province Cricket Association CEO Nabeal Dien (left) Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato (second left) Cricket South Africa transformaion officer Max Jordaan (second right) during the Cape Town Blitz meet and greet with Mayor of Cape Town at City of Cape Town Offices on October 28, 2019.
Image: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images

Cricket South Africa's  (CSA) communications boss Thamie Mthembu ordered the revocation of media accreditation of journalists without authorisation from now fired CEO Thabang Moroe, TimesLIVE can reveal.

Revelations from former CSA president Chris Nenzani during his consultation session with Fundudzi Forensic Services investigators in June reveal how Mthembu, the head of media and communications Mthembu, seemingly acted without a mandate from his line manager Moroe or the executive committee.

The revocation of media accreditation of five journalists was the  cornerstone of the eight charges that Moroe faced and eventually led to his dismissal.  Nenzani’s revelations have served to punch more holes in CSA’s case against the ex-CEO.

The events happened in the last week of November and by the first of December the organisation's governance and controls had malfunctioned with board members resigning en masse.

Moroe shouldered the blame as head of operations and apologised unreservedly for the error of judgement, although he had earlier mismanaged a radio interview on the matter.

Nenzani, who resigned in a huff last month on August 17 before CSA were to hold their annual general meeting on September 5, met with the Fundudzi forensic investigators in June to give his input of a sequence of events.

TimesLIVE is reliably informed that the CSA executive management committee had a discussion during that chaotic week in December on how to best manage the bad press. The organisation felt that there were journalists who were unfairly critical and needed to be tamed.

This is according to information obtained from CSA sources who spoke to TimesLIVE on condition their names are not revealed for fear of victimisation as they are not authorised to speak to the media.

“There were discussions at executive committee level on revoking accreditation of critical journalists and the members were divided in the middle over the issue,” said one source.

Another source said the CEO and his executive management team were “shocked” after they heard of the revocations through the media.

“There was a scheduled meeting which was to make a final call on how CSA was going to deal with critical journalists, but Mthembu somehow jumped the gun”.

Mthembu did not respond to questions sent to him on his email address and WhatsApp.

Mthembu is now acting as chief commercial officer and replaced Kugandrie Govender, who was promoted to CEO following the resignation of Dr Jacques Faul, who quit hours after Nenzani on August 18.

TimesLIVE is in possession of transcripts from a two-day session Nenzani had with the Fundudzi forensic investigators.

The forensic investigators’ first question was about the revocation of media accreditation of journalists and who was ultimately responsible for the controversial decision.

“It was not a mandate of the (CSA) Board, nor was it a mandate from me,” Nenzani responded to the strong three-man panel of directors from Fundudzi.

Nenzani said he was in Cape Town on the weekend of November 22 to 24 when he received phone calls from journalists who wanted clarity on the censorship of reporters.

“I was not aware of this and I checked with the CEO, and he confirmed what had happened and he said it was done by the media manager, and he said he is going to deal with it, and takes full responsibility for it.

“When the CEO said to me, it is a matter that was handled by a manager in the media department I then said he needed to attend to it, because my manner of operation (is that), I must deal with the CEO so that the CEO deals with his staff.”

Asked during the consultations if the media manager and the CEO should both take responsibility, Nenzani said: “They will be responsible for this action.”

One of the forensic investigators jumped in and wanted clarity from Nenzani on whether Moroe indicated if he is the one who mandated the media manager (Mthembu) to revoke the media accreditation, or Mthembu acted on his own accord.

“No, let me give you this background,” Nenzani responded.

“I was phoned on a Monday afternoon, by journalists, and on Wednesday I was (back) in Jo'burg, for a separate meeting. But fortunately, I had an opportunity to be smarter and I had also spoken to him (Moroe) on the afternoon of that particular Monday.

“And he said to me on both occasions, that he was not aware of this (revocation), but it was done by the media manager (Mthembu), and then the issue from my side was then deal with it, and he said he will deal with it and he will take personal responsibility.

“I said we need to deal with this matter and as soon as you can give me a report as to how you have dealt with this issue, unfortunately, we had to suspend him before he could do that,” said Nenzani.

TimesLIVE understands that Moroe demanded a full explanation and report from Mthembu but was suspended before he could do so.

During Nenzani’s rein as president from 2013 to 2019, cricket journalist Telford Vice, who worked for the Sunday Times at the time and later TimesLIVE, had some of his rights and special privileges as a reporter revoked at some point.

Vice was removed from the CSA media mailing list.

Nenzani was board chairperson and Haroon Lorgat CEO at the time. Vice’s censorship was eventually lifted after mediation. 

Lorgat denied on Tuesday that Vice’s removal from the CSA media mailing list was tantamount to a ban, a revocation of accreditation or a suppression in one way or the other.

“Telford was definitely not banned. He was only removed from the email list,” Lorgat told TimesLIVE on Tuesday.

Asked why Vice was removed from the mailing list, Lorgat said: “There are lengthy submissions to his bosses including the legal head Susanne Smuts if I recall her name correctly. CSA explained in detail the reasons why. We thus never reported to either the Press Council or the Editors Forum. You should get hold of the correspondence from TimesLIVE to understand it fully. They and Telford were provided with countless examples of inaccurate reporting and why CSA took issue.”

Vice said during a radio interview at time that "CSA didn't like my reporting on the bonus scandal involving Gerald Majola. And of course once the king was dead and there was a new king it was fine to be nasty about Gerald Majola. Now they don't like my reporting on the BCCI/CSA situation. There has been a lot of dishonesty I must say in the way that has unfolded."

CSA did not respond to questions sent on Tuesday on why the organisation did not impose punitive measures on the board of CEO Lorgat.

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