Angry Arendse bows out

Advocate Norman Arendse can string an argument together better than most and, to the untrained or sympathetic ear at his resignation briefing at Newlands on Wednesday, he sounded like a modern day Hamlet, betrayed by family and abandoned by friends, a good but innocently tragic victim.
It was compelling listening.

But at no stage did he accept responsibility for his own actions, and at no stage did he contemplate the awful prospect that he was, in fact, elected out of office in the same manner that he was voted in – fairly and democratically.

Having said that he would not name names, he promptly suggested that Gauteng’s former president, Barry Skjoldhammer, had been an instigator in the plot to oust him.

Having accused former colleagues of corruption based, by his own admission, on ‘hearsay’, he said he did not possess evidence of their manipulation.

He said that promises of T20 internationals and individual Franchises had been used to ‘buy’ votes. Then, his promise ‘not to name names’, became a withering admission that Griquas president, Ahmed Jinnah, should now be “a happy man” because he would “get his Franchise.”

Having said that he wanted no further association with administrators who “lacked any integrity” and who had stooped to “disgusting levels of skulduggery and dishonesty”, he said he remained a “loyal supporter of South African cricket who remained available to support it in any way.”

Asked whether there was anything he may have contributed to the atmosphere of conflict which characterised his term of office, anything which, in retrospect, he may have done differently – perhaps toned down his naturally confrontational approach, Arendse replied simply that he had suggested a meeting over breakfast or dinner with CSA chief executive Gerald Majola in Dubai last week.

No recognition or acceptance that his style of administration had upset people of every political persuasion at some point, or that more attempts at calm dialogue in the preceding 12 months might have been beneficial.

To all intents and purposes, it sounded like Advocate Norman Arendse genuinely believed that he was a completely innocent victim of vicious politicking by “self-serving administrators”, as he called them.

His use of the transformation ‘agenda’ has always been interesting. There is historical truth in what he says. Five of the 11 provinces have always struggled with transformation quotas and they are bitter about what they perceive to be a bias against them. Arendse says their resentment is based “on colour and on race. It is a transformation issue, pure and simple,” he said before citing a long list of rugby players and cricketers from the Cape who have been ‘bought’ by northern teams in order “to make up the quota.”

At no stage did Arendse acknowledge the fact that rugby and cricket have been played in Black and Coloured communities in the Western and Eastern Cape for a hundred years. That is not the case up north. Even rugby administrators acknowledged as much a couple of years ago when ‘quotas’ were adjusted to take account of ‘natural playing regions’ against ‘new development’ areas.

Norman Arendse is many things, and many of them are contradictory. The appointment of close ally Logan Naidoo as national team manager was a classic case of Arendse solidifying relationships with his troops. Perhaps the reason he was so angry at his ousting was that it was a result of behind-the-scenes manoeuvering, something at which he is brilliant. How dare they outdo him?!

But for all his outrage and antagonism, nobody should deny that Arendse has spirit. He is a cage-fighter where few rules apply. Kicks, head-butts, punches, bribes and ‘deals’ – anything to get ahead and get his deal done. But, amazingly, despite having to fight harder than most to get where he is today, he remains, at heart, a fair loser.

Having named me several times in his press conference as a media conspirator in his demise, he chuckled good naturedly as I left and suggested we write a book together. Now that would a be a challenge. But one I would gladly accept.

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