When the truth really is the truth

We should all hope that Gerald Majola is innocent of any malpractice because cricket doesn’t need another scandal – let alone one involving the chief executive officer and the misappropriation of national funds.

I have a special reason for hoping he’s been the victim of misunderstandings because I backed him furiously – in print and on radio – when people started telling me over 18 months ago that he was extremely difficult to contact, didn’t often return phone calls and was slow in dealing with basic, administrative functions.

I supported him because he deserved support – perhaps the job had been a little bigger and more complex than he’d imagined when he took it on and he needed time to find his feet. After all, cricketers need time to adjust to a higher level so why shouldn’t administrators?

The gravest doubt I had about Majola’s innocence came this weekend when, ironically, he was protesting his innocence. And it wouldn’t have seemed even remotely suspicious had we not seen something very similar from another prominent cricketing person just over four years ago.

Hansie Cronje faced a tense media conference in Durban when first accused of match-fixing in April 2000 and said: “I never fixed the result of a match.” And he said it with such conviction that you simply knew it was the truth. He was a little more vague on other questions but that statement was clearly the truth.

Majola, too, simply must be telling the truth when he says: “I never received a cent from Meloko IT,” the company in which disgraced former financial manager Diteko Modise was the major shareholder.

Whereas the important emphasis of what Cronje was saying was on “the result” the important emphasis of Majola’s denial is on the “I”. What Majola will have to answer is whether any company in which he was a director, chairman or shareholder benefitted directly or improperly from their dealings with Meloko or the United Cricket Board. Or Cricket South Africa.

On the face of it, it seems perfectly reasonable for Meloko to be appointed to install and maintain computers for the United Cricket Board. Majola was connected with both Meloko and the UCB and therefore had intimate knowledge of them – better the devil you know than the one you don’t (especially when it comes to computers!). Also, Meloko and its partner, Solution Worx, was/is dedicated to black empowerment ands that is something the United Cricket Board is rightly and very positively dedicated to promoting.

But in business you can’t just hand out contracts to your buddies because that would mean other companies, including other companies dedicated to black empowerment, are denied the right to compete and earn a living. That’s why the tender process is so important. And finally, Majola will have to answer these two questions: Did the UCB need a new computer system and did Meloko IT charge a fair rate for the installation and maintenance of the system. The forensic auditors, I understand, suffered a significant attack of raised eyebrows when they saw how much the UCB were paying for the maintenance of their system.

Majola’s pro-active belief in the demographic change of the game’s administration is not his only positive legacy. He also did away with the last vestiges of the autocracy that he inherited and, ironically, he had the UCB officially certified as a recognised business, a process that required almost six months of testing for correct business practice. That, surely, is Majola’s greatest defense. If he was intending to benefit improperly, why on earth would he have gone to the trouble of sorting out every level of the UCB’s business operations? So, surely, he has simply made an innocent mistake.

Unfortunately that is no excuse in the harsh world of business. It’s like telling a traffic cop you didn’t know it was a 60 kmh zone. Doesn’t matter. Unfortunately you have to pay up. Unless the camera was faulty – and you can prove it.

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