CAPE TOWN – The Social Justice and Nation Building hearings may be on a three week break, but that doesn’t mean the work stops for the Ombudsman, Adv Dumisa Ntsebeza, and his assistants.
It’s been a dramatic and traumatic month for South African cricket since the hearings, done in public, started. Ugly truths have been revealed about the sport. Racial discrimination was and some who have testified believe, perhaps even still is rife in South African cricket.
Until the SJN, black players never felt they had a platform to unburden themselves of the extra pressures they felt and had to deal with. Playing for their country should have been the highlight of their professional lives, but as many including Aaron Phangiso, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Ashwell Prince testified, it was a nightmare.
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Listening to and reflecting on what it was like for black players in South African cricket has been extremely triggering for many. In fact, while its cricket that has been in the spotlight, other sports and entities in South African society, will know that racial and gender discrimination is not unique to that one particular sport.
Thirty years after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, and 27 years – the time he spent in jail – since South Africa’s first democratic election, this country continues to suffer with racial and gender bias.
Women are paid less than men, occupy fewer positions of authority – by a drastic amount – and black people are still looked down upon. It happens everywhere, in all spheres of society.
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South African cricket, as the Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa told the SJN on Friday, deserves credit for lifting the veil on all of it through these hearings. The sport and Cricket SA as an organisation has endured enormous reputational damage. However, it will be better for it and if there are companies or individuals who want to abandon the sport because of what has been heard in the last few weeks, they would be wrong to do so.
Those corporations and people should ask themselves the following; What if we did an exercise like the SJN, looking at ourselves? What would it reveal?
As for cricket, the next step is a few weeks away. On August 23, the hearings resume, with those against whom allegations have been made, having the opportunity to respond. The Proteas head coach Mark Boucher has already stated that he will be cooperating with the SJN. He has been hurt by what has been said about him and wants to confront the allegations.
Cricket SA itself, will be making a submission. Certainly the new Board of Directors is under pressure, much of which they didn’t bring upon themselves. They will have to answer for decisions made by their predecessors, while also being cognisant that they need to map a way forward for South African cricket that must include implementing the recommendations that Ntsebeza will make in his final report.
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That document will be handed to the new Board at the end of September.
The SA Cricketers Association – the players union – will also face scrutiny when it appears at the hearings. While Saca has played a critical role in assisting cricketers, what the hearings have made clear is that it wasn’t a body through which black players felt they could raise grievances. Saca will have to answer for that, and like CSA, must learn how to include mechanisms that will allow it not to fail black players in the future.
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For Ntsebeza too, there is work to do. He must get to grips with some of the inner workings of the game. On the one hand, the fact that he and his assistants aren’t involved nor have an understanding of the nuances of the sport or the administration has been beneficial. They are free of bias and can ask the simple questions. But also, as was clear during the former CEO Thabang Moroe’s testimony, they require some understanding of why certain events took place within CSA.
They will be better equipped by reading the Nicholson report and the Fundudzi Forensic report, to give them a perspective on South African cricket that will enable them to make better inquiries during the next round of hearings.
The next fortnight provides everyone associated with cricket to draw breath and reflect on what has been an extremely difficult period for the sport. It has been necessary however. Too much of South African cricket post unity, has been clouded by a lack of trust.
Many people have shared dressing rooms and board rooms, talked to each other, played alongside each other, but never got to know one another. It created a horrible atmosphere in the sport. There have been whispers for too long.
The SJN has provided a platform to ventilate anguish and frustration. It may not seem like it now, but it has been hugely valuable for South African cricket and will leave the sport in a better state in the future.