Three Directors of the 12-member Eastern Province Cricket Board have been removed through a unanimous board decision on the basis of the findings of two inquiries headed by retired judges.
They are Mr Rafiek Potgieter, Mrs Dai Tai Marais and Mr Leon Miggels.
This follows a finding by Judge B M Ngoepe on behalf of Cricket South Africa (CSA) which cleared the present and former Eastern Province Cricket (EPC) Board members and officials of claims of impropriety made by the three regarding the establishment of Mega Sportz NPC.
In a separate process, the Pillay Disciplinary Committee under retired judge Ronnie Pillay found that “the actions of all three either individually, or together deprives the Board from operating as it should.
“The behaviour, in many ways, constitute conduct unbecoming of company directors.
“The disrespect for other Board members, attending illegal meetings, interfering with the status of the president especially in the absence of any objection to the election process and his election as president.
“It clearly suggests the existence of a secret or malfeasant agenda which is a threat to the business of the Board.”
The board resolution to dismiss the Directors was passed on October 5.
“EP Cricket can now focus on growing support for the game in the Eastern Cape,” said EP Cricket President Makhandan Leon Coetzee.
“We want to have winning teams at all levels.
“Notwithstanding the attempts by the former Directors to portray EPC, the other former and existing Directors and EPC officials in a negative light in the media, Mega Sportz NPC has initiated and secured major sponsorships for the benefit of cricket in the region. Since becoming operational in September 2022, it continues to focus on the implementation of EPC’s Financial Sustainability Programme.
“These include the securing of DAFABET as a naming rights sponsor for the DAFABET St Georges Stadium as well as the DAFABET Warriors for a three-year term, managing successfully the first season of the SA20 competition and the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup as well as non-cricket events that includes US Embassy Program, IsiXhosa Music Festival”.
Judge Pillay was assisted by Mr Albert Beyleveld SC and Mr Idris Dala, both of the Eastern Cape Society of Advocates.
The Committee, which first met on July 10, 2023, found that all three board members had contravened a number of provisions in the EPC MOI, Board Charter and the Companies Act.
These included disrupting board meetings, breach of trust in relation to the performance of a director’s function and communicating with the media without a mandate from the board since October 2022.
The findings echo similar findings by CSA.
In response to appeals by the dismissed directors for CSA to intervene, the Chief Executive Officer of CSA, Mr Pholetsi Moseki, mandated Judge B M Ngoepe, (Retired Judge President) in May 2023 to look into disputes “between two groups of Directors of Eastern Province Cricket (EPC).
Judge B M Ngoepe, on behalf of CSA, cleared Eastern Province Cricket (EPC) Board members, former board members and officials of claims of impropriety made by the three regarding the establishment of Mega Sportz NPC, an affiliate company of EPC established to provide stadium management functions at St Georges Park, identify other commercial activities to increase income and secure sponsorships for the benefit of EPC and its professional Warriors cricket team.
It operates under a further affiliate company of EPC being Cricket Eastern Cape (Pty) Ltd.
Member clubs of EPC had mandated it to establish Mega Sportz NPC with experienced Directors to fulfil a role enabling EPC to focus on improving amateur cricket in the region.
Further Issues raised by the dismissed board members included the validity of a recordal agreement regarding the hire of the St George’s Park Cricket Stadium between Eastern Province Cricket (NPC), Sun TV Network Ltd (Sunrisers Eastern Cape) and Mega Sportz NPC relating to the SA 20 in January 2023; and the election of Mr Leon Coetzee as President of the EP Cricket Board.
Judge Ngoepe found that all governance aspects pertaining to the establishment of Mega Sportz NPC and the conclusion of the agreement defining its duties as between it and EPC had been followed.
He found that no official or director of EPC had benefitted financially by virtue of the agreement concluded with Mega Sportz NPC.
He also found that all agreements relating to the SA 20 were authorised by EPC and valid thereby addressing an unauthorised report circulated to clubs and the media alleging that such agreements were invalid.
The judge states in his report:
“What is peculiar about the Board of the EPC is that one consistently finds one and the same set of individuals together complaining against the rest, and, for that matter, on a number of issues,” he states in his summary of his findings.
“I have not come across any issue or instance in which the pattern was broken where for example one or two of the current complainants fell into the so-called other group or vice-versa.
“It is therefore a matter of grave concern that there exist two camps within the Board, something which, with all due respect, must be ended”.
Judge Ngoepe was critical of board members using the media to settle disputes. “There has been a tendency to take internal matters to the media; that is – to use the fashionable terminology – weaponize the media.
“In my view, the Board is the platform for robust debates if needs be – something which is common – as opposed to taking matters to the media.
“People should feel free to air their views in the Boardroom, without any fear of a leak to the media. It is accepted that sometimes things do leak out to the media, but a practice to do so deliberately would inhibit members from freely airing their views; it will have a chilling effect.
“Members of the Board should therefore desist from resorting to the media.
“In normal circumstances when the Board speaks to the media, it would do so in accordance with internal procedures, such as through a spokesperson, CEO, chair, or some agreed channel”.
The three dismissed board members have the right to approach a court to review the determination by the Board, in compliance with Section 71(5) of the Companies Act and Article 20.1.8 of the MOI.