JOHANNESBURG – What on earth is going on at Cricket South Africa? Besides all CSA’s well-documented problems, I pose this question after a disturbing incident yesterday, which saw Independent Media cricket writer Stuart Hess being denied entry to the Wanderers to cover the Jozi Stars versus Paarl Rocks Mzansi Super League game because his accreditation was “revoked.”
When I asked CSA’s head of media and communications, Thamie Mthembu, for information yesterday, he did not want to say who had actually made the decision to revoke Stuart’s accreditation, why it was done, or when it was done. “It was a decision that was being considered by us as a business,” Mthembu said. He also said it was a technical issue at the ground, which he would be sorting out.
Furthermore, at no time has there been any official confirmation from CSA to either myself or Hess that his accreditation was being revoked.
The broader and salient point is simply this: Our readers today will not find any information on the Jozi Stars versus Paarl Rocks game, because our journalist was prevented from doing his work.
This is a totally unacceptable violation of the freedom of the press. In expressing our outrage, we as Independent Media stand by Hess and urge CSA to change this draconian state of affairs.
It was on 21 November, while covering a Mzansi Super League match at SuperSport Park, that a very reliable source of mine at Cricket South Africa informed me of the following via WhatsApp: “I have heard they want to ban you from CSA events and stadiums.”
“Are you serious?” I replied.
I’ve been informed subsequently that the ban was discussed, but quickly dismissed, apparently at the same meeting where it was first raised.
Then last Wednesday I interviewed CSA’s head of media and communications, Thamie Mthembu. My first contact with Mthembu was about the suspension of three of CSA’s senior administrative officials at the end of October. Our conversation was brief.
Last week after days of having calls ignored, Mthembu finally picked up the phone and I asked him about the resignation of another senior official and also what was happening regarding the appointment of a director of cricket, convenor of selectors and a selection panel for the Proteas team.
He answered most of my questions, and an article subsequently went up on Wednesday afternoon on www.iol.co.za under the headline, Cricket SA won’t name “technical team” that will pick Proteas squad for England series. The same article ran in Independent Media’s newspapers around SA on Thursday.
The following day I had to cover another Mzansi Super League match at SuperSport Park. When I went to scan my media accreditation, the scanner read: “Ticket cancelled.” Fortunately the very kind security lady near the press box at the ground, who knows me from all the years I’ve covered matches there allowed me in and an official from the Northerns Cricket Union was on hand to get me into the media centre. I first contacted CSA’s Koketso Gaofetoge, who deals with issues related to accreditation, on Friday evening, but he did not answer his phone.
On Saturday morning I contacted Gaofetoge again this time via WhatsApp and informed him again that my accreditation had been cancelled and that because we (as the media) had worked through him when there were issues with accreditation, wondered if he could tell me what was going on. He replied saying he would “speak to Thamie (Mthembu) to find out.” A few hours later I called Gaofetoge again and he told me that he had informed Mthembu about my message, but that he hadn’t heard back from him. However Gaotefoge said he would be seeing Mthembu for dinner on Saturday night and would discuss my matter with him, and I should check back.
Gaotefoge never answered the phone when I called him a couple of times on Saturday night.
Yesterday morning I went to the Wanderers to cover the Jozi Stars versus Paarl Rocks match. When I scanned my accreditation at the Wanderers, the scanner read: “ticket cancelled.” The security lady told me to go to the ticket office (I don’t know her as well as the lady at SuperSport Park). At the Wanderers ticket office I was given a service ticket by an employee of Gauteng Cricket, someone I do know. I asked her to check my accreditation for me as it had read “cancelled” when scanned at both SuperSport Park and the Wanderers.
She told me, after typing the code on my pass into a computer, that according to the system which CSA uses for all the people it accredits – from players to officials, to media and other stadium officials – my media accreditation had been “revoked.”
I called my sports editor immediately thereafter.
At 2.48pm yesterday, a little less than two hours after CSA’s chief executive Thabang Moroe had confirmed on eNCA that I had been banned and why CSA had done so and that I could pay for a ticket if I wanted to go into a stadium, I received an email from CSA’s “Accreditation Team.”
It read: “Dear Mr. Stuart Hess
Greetings and we hope you’re well.
Your accreditation application has been processed and is “Approved” by the tournament authority.”
Approved was written in bold.
Ian Smit and Stuart Hess