Today is the deadline for submissions for those who have been “adversely mentioned” at Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) Social Justice and Nation Building (SJN) hearings.It was the transformation ombudsman, Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, who used the phrase “adversely mentioned,”, which in the case of the SJN and the various testimonies heard there, means accused.
“One hopes that those who are mentioned by those who have testified, it will be in their interest to come and answer some of the questions (that have been) posed,” Ntsebeza said on July 23, following Omphile Ramela’s appearance.Ramela, a former president of the SA Cricketers Association (Saca), who at one stage also sat on the Interim Board appointed by Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa, made various allegations about the appointment of Graeme Smith as director of cricket and even went so far as to call on the SJN, to conduct an investigation.
An inquiry of that nature doesn’t fall within the ambit of the SJN, which is trying to determine whether has been racial or gender discrimination in cricket and what role it has played in the sport; from how players were treated, to whether they were earning equal salaries. Much of the testimony has been brutally frank and difficult to absorb.
Obviously, for those retelling their stories, it has been extremely painful revisiting those episodes, but also hard for those “adversely mentioned”.In some quarters, privately at least, the legality of all this testimony is being questioned. Some have used the SJN to attempt to rewrite history and even to exaggerate their own importance within the sport.
But CSA agreed to this very public and open process, with the testimonies being streamed live via the federation’s YouTube channel, and recordings are available on the same platform.Ntsebeza has been consistent in calling for those against whom allegations were made to come forward, to relate their recollections and to set the record straight – at least from their perspective.
Proteas head coach Mark Boucher is going to do precisely that. He will co-operate fully with the hearings.”The allegations in the media currently are hurtful, factually incorrect and do not serve the greater good of our country or the intentions of the SJN in mending past hurts and building relations,” Boucher said in a statement two weeks ago.Thus far he is the only individual to publicly announce his co-operation.CSA has said it will make a submission in September.
The players unions, Saca, which has featured consistently on a few different topics, will also be making a submission, while others, according to Ntsebeza, may even make a second appearance.CSA’s 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.
That document will be handed to the new board at the end of September.Saca has played a critical role in assisting cricketers, but 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.It has been a brutal process thusfar for CSA.
The organisation has been slammed publicly for what has occured, with many wondering what the future holds.However, the SJN provides a great opportunity, which many other social entities including big business could learn from.Confronting the divisions which have existed in South African cricket since unity has been a necessary process.What the hearings have made clear is that through the unification process in the early 1990s many, particularly black players and officials, felt bullied.
A lot more emphasis was put on getting South Africa to play international cricket, than the actual process of unifying, and creating a system whereby structures in black communities were strengthened, to create a proper production line for players.Alongside that, much stronger bridges needed to be built across the political and social divide than was the case when South Africa went hurtling back into international cricket in 1991.
Alarm bells really should have been ringing when Omar Henry told management and senior as it was then – United Cricket Board of SA, administrators that he wanted to come home early from the 1992 World Cup.That should have led to some introspection. It didn’t because players were still feeling like they didn’t belong when the World Cup returned to Australasia 23 years later.
The importance of those against whom allegations have been made at the SJN, appearing at the hearings cannot be overstated. An acknowledgement of wrongs committed, even if those offences were committed inadvertently, will allow healing. Perhaps explanations for why certain selections were made, may provide validity.
More than one player who has appeared at the hearings have stressed that theirs is not an attempt to destroy the sport or even push to remove certain individuals.They would like to create a foundation from which CSA can move forward, but that can only happen once there is a clear and properly unified vision, which can only arise from acknowledgement that many, particularly black players feel they were discriminated against, in the years following the abolishment of apartheid.