22 June 2024 | 01:56 AM

The many “grey areas” of Cricket South Africa’s Pink Day

Key Takeaways

  • Despite raising more than R4.7-million for breast cancer from the annual Pink Day, Cricket South Africa (CSA) has donated just R712 844 to Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in five years.
  • But the Central Gauteng Lions union that runs Pink Day on behalf of CSA has deducted R1.4-million from the Pink Day ODI Fund in administrative costs, billing it for marketing, match day and Golf Day expenses.
  • Hospital insiders contacted amaBhungane with concerns about the lack of improvements at the breast cancer unit and were surprised to learn that they wouldn’t be receiving “every rand” from the charity, a claim which CSA has been making to them, the cricket-loving public and generous corporate sponsors.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) appears to be taking advantage of the goodwill around Pink Day with a misleading public relations campaign that oversells their contribution to the fight against breast cancer.

The country’s cricket governing body has raised more than R4.7-million (R4 767 116) since 2019 from the annual One Day International (ODI) match, dubbed Pink Day, but has donated just R712 844 of this to Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital’s breast cancer unit.

This hasn’t stopped CSA from boasting earlier this year that, through their Pink Day campaign, “cancer patients have been able to obtain specialised treatment and care, regardless of geographical location or socioeconomic status”.

Twice as much money (over R1.4-million) has been deducted from the Fund to defray marketing expenses than has been donated to the hospital to date, financial statements also show.

Pink Day is a cricket match hosted at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg every year where South Africa’s senior men’s national team – the Proteas – and their supporters dress in pink to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer care. The funds are raised through various avenues, from donating a portion of the ticket sales to proceeds raised during a separate Golf Day.

Supporters can also make donations through an SMS line. Corporates and those with deep pockets make pledges throughout the match, while the Proteas’ main sponsor donates money for every six and four scored on the day. For example, at this year’s Pink Day held in April gambling company Betway donated R1000 for each of the 61 fours and R2000 each for the 15 sixes that were scored in the Proteas’ eight-wicket thumping of The Netherlands.

Pink Day was launched in 2013. Its first beneficiary was Pink Drive, a non-governmental organisation whose primary focus is early detection and providing breast cancer screenings. The breast cancer unit at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital replaced Pink Drive as the beneficiary in 2018.

The ODI match is hosted by the Central Gauteng Lions (CGL), formerly known as the Gauteng Cricket Board (GCB). CGL is one of 12 unions affiliated to CSA, the association that’s responsible for cricket development and governance in the country. The union drives Pink Day on behalf of CSA who have general oversight of everything and are the organisers of the international cricket series that includes the breast cancer fundraiser.  

CGL and CSA established a public benefit organisation called the Pink ODI Fund in 2018 to manage the money raised. Both organisations’ CEOs are members of the fund, with television producer and actress Connie Ferguson appointed as an independent chair in 2022.

The hospital’s breast cancer unit was named beneficiary of Pink Day in September 2017. CSA publicly announced the decision the following month.

“Every rand raised from Pink Day will go towards supporting hundreds of women (and men) with breast cancer, by offering tangible support to the breast care team at Charlotte Maxeke,” CSA said in a press statement issued in October that year.

An amaBhungane investigation found that CSA has not fully honoured that early promise. While there is no evidence of misappropriation of funds by either CSA or CGL, neither body has been fully transparent with the public or the hospital about the fund’s operations.

In response to our findings, CSA said: “When it comes to the Pink ODI Fund and the assistance being provided to Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, … everything we do is done in accordance with strict governance principles and ethics. We attempt to be as transparent with the public as possible. We have shown our commitment to transparency in our dealings [with amaBhungane]. There’s nothing untoward with our finances. There is also nothing untoward in our messaging to the public.”

False advertising?

The Pink ODI Fund’s financials – which, to their credit, CSA and CGL promptly shared with amaBhungane – show that the Fund has only made one substantial donation to the breast cancer unit in five years. This was a R670 000 contribution to a research study conducted by the Wits Health Consortium into African breast cancer patients’ reaction to cancer therapies in 2019. A further R42 884 has trickled through to the hospital to pay for tea, coffee and biscuits in the ward in later years.

The financials also show that the Fund has spent twice as much money (over R1.4-million) to cover the Central Gauteng Lions’ expenses than they have donated to the hospital (more than R700 000). This would appear to contradict CSA’s claim, made at the start of its partnership with the hospital, that “every rand raised” would go to cancer support at the facility.

The first time CSA indicated this was not the case was in March last year when, as part of a press statement announcing Ferguson’s appointment as Fund chair, it said that “all net proceeds generated” will be donated to the hospital.

Hospital sources with knowledge of the formative years of the partnership with CSA, who spoke to amaBhungane on condition of anonymity, say that they were led to believe that the unit would receive 100% of the funds raised from Pink Day. They, along with the hospital, were surprised when amaBhungane told them that CGL has been deducting expenses relating to the hosting of the match.

“We are not aware of any money being deducted by CGL to cover marketing costs,” Tabudi Madisha, the hospital’s spokesperson, confirmed.

CSA disputed this assertion: “Your sources at the hospital are attempting to cry foul, but we have never wilfully misled them through any act of omission. They seem to have misunderstood the situation, and we regret that we didn’t make the position clear to them in the past. But their misunderstanding cannot and should not be interpreted as a wilful misrepresentation on our side, when we are doing our utmost to ensure proper governance of this project.”

CSA added that it was “common practice the world over” that a percentage of funds raised would be used to finance the “extensive” marketing campaign: “Fundraising and marketing of that fundraising go hand in hand. This is not a wilful misrepresentation. It is a widely accepted practice … known as leveraging.

“We attempt to keep the costs of our leverage money down as much as possible, by using salaried employees from CSA and CGL to manage the project. Labour is always one of the biggest expenses and we can ensure that this is not deducted from the money that will be used to fund our beneficiary projects.”

CSA and CGL executives met with amaBhungane to discuss the Pink Fund in early September. Asked during this meeting why the Fund had only made one substantial payment to the hospital in five years, CGL’s CEO Jonathan Leaf-Wright said: “There has been no request [from the hospital]. The greatest challenge in connecting with [the hospital] is the three years that Covid ripped the heart out of all of us.”

Hospital spokesperson Madisha told amaBhungane separately that the reason why they had not submitted any proposals to the Fund was because the Covid-19 pandemic refocused their priorities and then in 2021 the hospital building that hosted the ward was gutted by a fire.

However, internal hospital correspondence seen by amaBhungane indicates that staff at the breast cancer unit picked up the pieces again the following year. They sent a proposal for a “Centre of Breast Cancer Excellence” to the hospital’s CEO, Gladys Bogoshi, in March 2022, to be funded in part by Pink Day Fund proceeds.

They proposed renovating another building the hospital owns off-site and turning it into a facility that can house breast imaging and breast surgery clinics. However, this proposal never reached CSA and CGL, amaBhungane understands.

An earlier proposal to use two-thirds of the funds to improve the breast cancer unit and the other third for research was drawn up during the first few months of the partnership.

The then-Gauteng Cricket Board then enlisted an architect to draw up plans for the renovations, but GCB’s chief financial officer at the time, Barry Whitfield, told amaBhungane that the project faltered due to red tape at the hospital and the Gauteng Department of Health.

“Our stadium manager met with the facilities manager but the message we got back was that it was virtually impossible to make any structural changes without going through multiple layers of approval from the board of Charlotte Maxeke. We then investigated [donating] movable items like beds etc, but nothing came out of it because of the various approval channels that were required,” Whitfield said.

Madisha told amaBhungane that he wasn’t aware of these claims. “What we can confirm is that, in all professional settings, some processes and procedures need to be followed before any project can be undertaken.”

CSA added: “We apply intense scrutiny over the disbursement of funds to ensure nothing goes awry. Inevitably this takes time which regrettably causes delays. But the machinery is in place and in motion to ensure that the delivery of our stated objectives is done properly and in accordance with strict rules of financial management.”

Discussions are finally back underway between CSA and the hospital. Madisha said that the hospital had met with CSA in July and had now submitted a funding proposal. CSA confirmed that “a list of priority projects has been identified and are waiting for approval”.

The Pink ODI Fund has R2.4-million (R2 440 381) available in the bank to spend on the hospital, according to its 2022/23 financial statements. It will receive a further cash injection later this year when the Proteas host India in a Pink Day match on 17 December.

A day before CSA’s extended deadline to respond to amaBhungane’s questions, the association issued a statement purportedly promoting India’s forthcoming tour and the associated Pink Day match.  

In an apparent move to pre-empt any fall-out from this story, the statement also addressed the key concerns we had raised about the Pink Fund, telling partners and fans that “that their contributions are managed with the utmost transparency and dedication”. 

Pledges vs donations

AmaBhungane’s enquiries have forced CSA to clarify another habitual misstatement in their PR messaging around Pink Day.

Previously, CSA would announce pledges and present them as funds they have raised. In 2018 for instance, CSA presented the R1.7-million pledged as money raised – going as far as handing the hospital a “dummy cheque” highlighting that figure, and trumpeting the amount “raised” for Pink Day on its official YouTube channel.

But CSA could only recoup R1.3-million (R1 359 526) of that amount in the 2019 financial year, its own financial reconciliation it shared with amaBhungane shows.

Pressed to explain the discrepancy, CSA admitted that “such cheque handovers are purely symbolic and meant as a photo opportunity”.

“The dummy cheque does not represent, and was never meant to represent, the amount of money that would finally be collected once those who pledged money made good on their promise. It was always intended to be a reflection of what the fans and partners had promised to donate,” it said.

CSA CEO Pholetsi Motseki had earlier told amaBhungane during a face-to-face meeting that they do not fully recoup pledges because some corporates and individuals later fail to honour their commitments. He declined to disclose who the worst culprits are, as CSA would like to work with them in the future. “Can I be honest? You know when the Lotto is R100 million: they will advertise it everywhere just to encourage people,” Motseki said. “It’s really just a way to hype it up, so that more people can see that this thing is for a good cause.”

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Njabulo Ngidi

Njabulo has spent more than a decade in journalism. The bulk of that period was spent writing about South African football. He is driven by the desire to tell stories that go beyond the athlete, but show the person behind the athlete.

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