A tale of friends in a cabal staged a coup in Cricket South Africa


By: Chris Landsberg

As a student of politics and diplomacy I have always been fascinated with coups de’ tat in Africa. This should not be taken to mean that one is a supporter of such putschits; just that I have been following them with keen interest to learn and try and understand them.

Two such coups have interest me lately: the November 2017 coup in Zimbabwe, which was a non-coup coup, if you know what I mean. The military finally removed Robert Mugabe from office, but they did it in such a way that they ended up leading the people to the palace and try to create the impression that Harare’s strong man actually wanted it; they claimed to have acted in his interests, even on his behalf.

The much more recent  one that greatly intrigued me was the coup de’tat at Cricket South Africa (CSA) where a cabal of (white} administrators and former players, many of them friends that played together for many years, and the newly parachuted Director of Cricket has the temerity to state that “he will leave the politics to others”.  As if his very ascendancy to power as orchestrated by the cabal was not political.

Welcome to the world of politics King Graham; the world of the struggle for power and control of resources. As for your statement that you will focus on “cricket excellence” and leave the “Politics to others” will not stand the test of time. In fact, the brazen, well-calculated way in which you usurped power, and threw weight around in recent weeks, was a text-book case of power politics. In what was a premeditated and intentional move on your part and your vocal backers, and now that you have walked into the proverbial lion’s  political den, statements that you will “leave” the politics to others, will not pass the public empires DCR review, and that review may ultimately be reviewed. With his calculated political moves,  “King” Smith will quickly learn that everything is political. Indeed his very nomination and the way he was  “appointed”, and all the appointments  made since his elevation are all necessary  political.

We are simply not oblivious to the fact that the batting consultant and the new coach over an elongated period have been bosom buddies. Your “all-star” team of friends that you have appointed will come in for major public scrutiny and be ready for the backlash.
So “King” Smith conceded that he will have to be sensitive to CSA’s “transformation” priorities. It is not as if he has a choice, lest of course the agenda is to capture and recolonize this game we all admire in a black majority, post-apartheid land. And maybe that is the agenda. But only the fullness of time shall reveal the clear motives of the calculated and blatant political poker game.

To start with, there is no doubt that battle lines were drawn during the last few weeks. For one, Africanists that have been pushing for “Africanisation”, and at times did so in rather clumsy fashion, will be pitted against the aristrocrats that have just staged the coup. That there will be a racialization of the issue is beyond doubt. Brace yourself for some serious racial fall-out of the issue.

The way sponsors suddenly pulled out given recent shenanigans, just to state after the take-over they will keep the window “open”; they will re-engage. This raises the question what they knew about the planned and imminent regime change in the weeks and days before the coup. The questions will come, and the politics will be omnipresent.

To what extent was their co-ordination between those who finally staged the take-over and “spokespersons” like Mr Symcox? Lest we forget how Pat Symcox was racially preferred to Paul Adams, of whom it was conveniently said  by CSA he is young. They did all that to ensure Symcox’s pension because we cricket followers knew Symcox by that time was long over his best days as a cricketer and bowler in particular.

Shall we also ask what  was the role of Mr. Richardson in helping to pave the way for that close and intimate inner-clique to tilt the balance in the direction of the aristocrats and to ensure that power is wrestled in their favour?

Who did Mr Smith consult with when he appointed the coach, the batting consultant, the spinning consultant, and the concessionary appointments of Nkwe and Langefeldt?

May we know which Board members were in favour and who showed some resistance and insisted on sensitivity and due regard for the national interests as opposed to marrow selfish interests of individuals and cliques?

The conflict of interest questions are coming Mr Smith, like it or not, and be ready for it! Politics is everywhere. One unavoidable question that will inevitably come is whether many of these people appointed in these powerful positions by King Smith are more than just friends and associates? At another level in the often dubious complex relations of politics and economic interest are some of them business partners? Does CSA provide the long-awaited opportunity for more business deals and breakthroughs, and the building of an empire? This is politics pure and simple. You cannot wish it away.

*Chris Landsberg
SARChi African Diplomacy & Foreign Policy