SJN Hearings: Graeme Smith’s contract as director of cricket is ’unlawful’ says Omphile Ramela
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JOHANNESBURG – Omphile Ramela told the Social Justice and Nation Building hearings that Graeme Smith’s appointment as Cricket SA’s Director of Cricket reflected a system in the sport that “bends over backwards for white people”.
Ramela, who played for 13 years, was the president of the SA Cricketers Association (the players union) and recently a member of the Interim Board which oversaw Cricket SA’s affairs while the administration was restructured, said Smith’s contract with Cricket SA was “unlawful and unprocedural”.
Meanwhile, the SJN’s ombudsman, Adv. Dumisa Ntsebeza, said the hearings would continue until August 6, a week longer than initially scheduled. Cricket SA will testify, as will Saca, various clubs, Cricket SA’s former CEO, Thabang Moroe, along with other individuals and entities.
Ramela described for the SJN a meeting he attended at the SA Cricketers Association’s offices in 2019, where Smith’s appointment as (acting) Director of Cricket was announced by CSA’s then acting CEO, Jacques Faul. That meeting was attended, according to Ramela, by Saca’s then CEO Tony Irish, David Becker (Smith’s lawyer), Andrew Breetzke (the current CEO of Saca) and David Richardson, the former ICC CEO who at the time was conducting a review of South African cricket’s domestic structure.
Ramela said that, following a decision by the then CSA Board of Directors, chaired by the former CSA president Chris Nenzani, Smith was to be appointed, with Faul adding that one of Smith’s “demands” was that Mark Boucher be made head coach.
At the time, Enoch Nkwe was an acting team manager, a new sort of position, akin to that of a football club manager. Nkwe was to be made Boucher’s assistant under the new structure, something Ramela described as a demotion.
Ramela didn’t make clear if the contract he had in his possession – a copy of which he said he would hand over to the commission – was the one for Smith’s period as Director in an acting capacity or for when he was permanently appointed. When Smith was appointed in December 2019, it was in acting capacity up to April of 2020. On April 17, 2020, CSA announced that Smith had signed a two year contract as Director of Cricket.
Ramela said that during its tenure, the Interim Board that was supposed to review the contracts of CSA’s management, but decided “no, no, no,” in the case of Smith’s. “They created all this huff and puff and smoke, dealt with everything, and left this one, which it’s patently clear, has problems,” Ramela told the SJN on Friday.
The Interim Board was established by Sports Minister, Nathi Mthethwa in October 2020, to oversee the implementation of recommendations that would lead to the establishment of a new Board of Directors, the majority of whom would be independent members. In addition, its mandate also included reviewing contracts of individuals working for CSA.
“(Smith’s) contract needs an investigation.” said Ramela, who was removed from the Interim Board because of him being “derelict in the performance of his functions as a director.”
According to Ramela, Smith’s contract outlines how he “does not in fact work for CSA.”
“We have to ask, where is his money going? We need an investigation because if there is any sponsor or organisation that is manipulating the system for Graeme then the full might of the law must descend on those people. If there is any wrong-doing the money must be recovered.
“This contract has too many discrepancies. So CSA must deal with it. They must give an account of it, and say, this is the state of it, this is what’s happening and this is the way forward.”
Ntsebeza, said after Ramela’s testimony, that the SJN project, “was becoming more complex.”
“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,” said Ntsebeza.