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Thanks to Michael Holding, SJN hearings survives being dragged into a match-fixing quagmire

FILE - Former Proteas Test captain Faf du Plessis is interviewed by Michael Holding shortly before Day 1 of the International Test Series against Australia. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

FILE - Former Proteas Test captain Faf du Plessis is interviewed by Michael Holding shortly before Day 1 of the International Test Series against Australia. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Published Oct 31, 2021

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Johannesburg - Thank goodness Michael Holding was able to bring the Social Justice and Nation-building hearings back to what its name indicates it should be about.

The last few days of the hearings had become entangled in a web of legalese over how the investigation of the 2015/16 RamSlam match-fixing saga was handled.

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“Half of the recent hearings was giving chapter and verse of the minutiae of what actually was done by those (who were investigated),” an almost exasperated Transformation Ombudsman, advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza said.

Ntsebeza told Andrew Breetzke, the chief executive of the SA Cricketers’ Association, who was testifying before the SJN, that in allowing the match-fixing investigation, which had been raised by four players during their testimony in July, to be brought before him, he’d let a run-away horse loose, which by the time Breetzke appeared, he was no longer able to stop.

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Alviro Petersen, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Thami Tsolekile and Ethy Mbhalati had all painted a picture of victimisation based on race. Ntsebeza allowed them all to testify what the basis was for that feeling.

But then, as the processes of the SJN allowed, those allegations needed to be responded to. Louis Cole, Cricket SA’s Anti-Corruption Unit head and David Becker, who assisted him in that investigation, did respond, with facts.

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It was painful viewing, in particular a video Cole showed the commission highlighting how some elements of the investigation unfolded, and the kind of evidence that was relied upon before players were charged and sanctioned. In particular one clip in which Tsolekile’s voice is heard organising money and informing a facilitator about which players were in on a potential fix, was dreadful.

But it needed to be shown. One of Ntsebeza’s assistants, Sandile July, wanted to know what value the video had for the SJN. The answer is simple; those players who said under oath they were targeted because of their race, were now being shown in a different light. They admitted to trying to fix elements of a match, to accepting payments and to trying to cover their tracks.

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That needed to be shown to eliminate the very claims the players had made about being targeted because of the colour of their skin. There was the evidence – from Cole and Becker, provided in great detail – to show that that wasn’t the case.

Ntsebeza is right in saying the match-fixing saga became a distraction, because there was so much else which was invaluable for him to hear in the second half of the commission’s work.

Thankfully, there was Holding, who, given the happenings of the last week around Quinton de Kock, provided an outside, but deeply meaningful perspective about the importance of the SJN’s work.

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“I hope this inquiry will bear fruit,” Holding said. “I’ve been (to South Africa) many times. I can see it is a great country, but everyone has to work together and accept each other. There are differences, yes, but the differences should not make things that difficult for us to see each other as humans and as one.”

@shockerhess

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