Johannesburg - HOW much the Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearings have changed the landscape of South Africa cricket will become clearer once the final report from the Transformation Ombudsman, Dumisa Ntsebeza, is made public.
There is no doubt that the SJN has changed everyone’s perspectives about SA cricket – some of it for the better, some not.
Cricket South Africa (CSA), and the sport in general in South Africa, had its dirty laundry very publicly aired. What was once whispered, or spoken of “off the record”, was very publicly exposed and remains available for anyone to consume via CSA’s YouTube channel.
It created uncomfortable headlines for South African cricket – personalities who have dominated the game here in the post-isolation era, were exposed for truly dreadful deeds. While they made written submissions to the SJN, it was a pity that neither Graeme Smith, CSA’s current director of cricket, nor Proteas coach,Mark Boucher appeared at the hearings to provide oral testimony.
The duo’s reputations have certainly been scarred by what others have testified about them.
So too have the reputations of the four players who appeared at the hearings and spoke of their punishments in the match-fixing saga been further damaged. Alviro Petersen, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Thami Tsolekile and Ethy Mbhalati had run a wild publicity campaign in the months before appearing at the SJN, but much of what they testified to when it came to the match-fixing affair of 2015-16 was exposed as false.
That was perhaps the one part of the hearings which was a disappointment – the amount of time spent on the match-fixing saga – which proved to be a major distraction.
It was important that Ntsebeza got to hear from former Proteas manager, Mohammed Moosajee, because Moosajee was able to outline steps the national men’s side had taken in trying to grow themselves as individuals and as a team. It was an ugly picture which had been painted by the testimonies from Aaron Phangiso, Paul Adams, Lungile Bosman and a few others, but what Moosajee explained was that rather than allow bitterness to fester, players were encouraged to voice their opinions.
More recently, CSA’s acting head of cricket pathways, Eddie Khoza, told the hearings the players in the national team now fill out surveys, anonymously, where they can open up about any discomfort they may have with teammates or members of the management.
Ntsebeza asked that those reports be made available to assist him as he compiles his final report.
While allegations of racism understandably grabbed the headlines, it was somewhat unfortunate that not more time was spent discussing gender discrimination.
Zola Thamae – one of Ntsebeza’s “scene setters” – did highlight the early days of women’s cricket in South Africa and how players were amateurs up until 2013-14, while Nolu Ndzundzu, the first black African woman to represent South Africa’s women’s side, mentioned how she felt isolated because of a language barrier.
Only later did the hearings get a better understanding about women’s cricket, its growth and the barriers that remain for women wanting to play the game. Among the many admissions he made of where Cricket South Africa had erred, the former acting chief executive, Jacques Faul, said women’s cricket had been “neglected,” although he did praise CSA for its efforts lately.
“I’m actually ashamed of how much more we should have done,” Faul told the SJN. “(CSA) got it right first. At affiliate level, we don’t do justice (to women’s cricket).”
When Khoza and then the South Africa Cricketers’ Association chief executive Andrew Breetzke appeared, they provided much more insight into the state of the women’s game, and the huge potential for growth that exists. How Ntsebeza will view their testimonies, could have a profound effect on the future of women’s cricket.
Actually, that will be the case for the sport as a whole.
SA cricket has had a mirror put up to it, and what has been reflected is very ugly. This was a sport that wasn’t unified as the processes in the early 1990s would have had us think.
Then through the ’90s, cricket had always portrayed itself as the game with an enlightened outlook on South Africa, while rugby with Louis Luyt and Andre Markgraaf, was the sport full of verkramptes.
What a fallacy the SJN has shown that to be.
SA cricket never properly mended the divisions created by apartheid. The levels of distrust between administrators remained well after unity was officially signed. So distracted were the administrators by their own petty battles, that they never considered what unity meant for the players.
Many suffered in silence. One of the greatest fast bowlers SA has produced, ran to and from stadiums rather than sit on the bus with teammates.
A player going to the World Cup – which should be one of the highlights of his professional career – preferred locking himself in his hotel room than going out with teammates. And that isn’t something that happened in the 1990s, it happened to Phangiso, in 2015.
Even before Ntsebeza releases his final report later this month, the SJN has made an acute impact on SA cricket. No longer are there whispers, and in that regard, the hearings have provided the sport with much value.