'Shocked' Ntsebeza reveals how Cricket SA's interim board put a screeching halt to transformation project

18 May 2021 - 18:20 By Tiisetso Malepa and tiisetso malepa
Dumisa Ntsebeza said he was shocked by what he was told at a hastily arranged Sunday afternoon meeting.
Dumisa Ntsebeza said he was shocked by what he was told at a hastily arranged Sunday afternoon meeting.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

The ombudsman for Cricket SA’s (CSA's) SJN transformation project, advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, has detailed how the organisation’s interim board was divided in taking its controversial decision to stop public hearings 12 hours before their scheduled start.

In an interview on Thabiso Mosia’s sports show on SAfm‚ Ntsebeza said he was preparing for the start of the hearings when he received a call to attend a meeting with the CSA interim board.

The respected advocate said he was shocked at what he was told at the meeting.

“I was told by the acting CEO [on Sunday] that the board would like to see the ombudsman and the people who work in his office‚” Ntsebeza said.

“They call me to a meeting at 15h45 on Sunday afternoon when I [was] preparing and making all the arrangements in the hearing room.

“First I thought the meeting was going to be on Saturday and then I was told it was going to be at 15h45 on Sunday.

“And then‚ there I was at the meeting‚ can you imagine how shocked I was when in the course of the meeting they began to raise issues about legal implications.”

The interim board shocked the nation when it announced the postponement of the high-profile SJN transformation project on the eve of the start of public hearings‚ which were scheduled to commence on Monday morning.

Ntsebeza said he was shocked further at the Sunday meeting.

“Then I got shocked [again] when one of the board members said 'why must this thing [hearings] be public in any event?'”

Ntsebeza said he made it unequivocally clear to the interim board that he would not be party to hearings that could not be accessed by the public.

“And then I said ‘look it is a no-brainer’. Whoever is listening right now or who cares to listen‚ there is no way that I am going to be associated with a process that is not accessible to the public‚” said Ntsebeza. “It is a non-starter. I want the listening public to know that this is my position.

“It became clear to me that the board was divided. I can tell you there were some board members‚ in my assessment‚ who felt that the process must go ahead.

“Some of them obviously felt that the process must not go on.”

Ntsebeza said during the interview that the determining factor in the postponement of the public hearings stemmed from a letter that former captain and incumbent director of cricket Graeme Smith wrote‚ through his lawyers‚ to the transformation ombudsman’s office on May 14.

In the letter‚ Ntsebeza said Smith’s representatives warned of legal concerns around the public hearings and that the former captain was worried his name would be dragged through the mud.

Ntsebeza said the interim board knew as early as May 14 about the apparent legal concerns and lamented the fact that he was informed of the concerns and subsequent postponement only the night before.

“They should have raised these issues with me earlier.”

Ntsebeza‚ without mentioning names‚ said one of the interim board members was implicated in the submissions and was scheduled to make an appearance this week.

The advocate questioned why the director‚ who he said was “deputy chair of the board”‚ should have raised the legal concerns issue when he received an invitation to appear at the public hearings.

“One of the people who was going to testify is the deputy chairperson of the board himself.

“He does not say ‘hey look we have concerns about the legal implications. There is a letter’. Why didn’t they say on the 14th of May when they got that letter that came from Becker and them‚ why didn’t they say to me then that 'look there are legal concerns about this process'? Nobody did.”

Ntsebeza told the radio show that all the people who were going to be implicated were informed that they had an unfettered right of reply.

“As far as I am concerned I have taken enough [precautions] to make sure that the process is fair and that people’s interests will be protected‚ first by people testifying under oath, and second, everyone will have an opportunity to be heard.

“You will be heard before a final finding is made. I cannot apologise for the process I have embarked upon,” Ntsebeza said.

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