South African commissions of inquiry or investigations – whether they be in sport or politics – tend to end up as an absolute bloody waste of time.
Therefore, I am not holding my breath that any of the high-ups caught up in the latest one, the outcome of Cricket South Africa’s Social Justice and Nation Building (SJN) hearings, will have the good sense to step aside – or better still, end up being kicked out, following the damning report from the national body’s Transformation Ombud, Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza.
Of course, as thoroughly peed off South Africans, we can demand change.
If we do not, yet another episode of racism in sport will end up like every other episode – as racist pornography.
Well, we have all heard the stories aired by numerous former players and officials at the SJN hearings over the past few months, haven’t we?
Most of these stories were examples of disgraceful behaviour by people who refuse to accept that racism is an affront to human dignity.
They lack ‘cultural training’, we have been told from time to time.
Over the past few months, I have heard about a song in which a player, one of South Africa’s most successful spin bowlers, Paul Adams, was referred to as ‘brown shit’.
I have heard about how a white former test player, a member of a WhatsApp group of former Proteas players, posted a comment in which he referred to then the coach of the SA Under-19 side, Lawrence Mahatlana, as an ‘aap’ (a monkey).
I’ve heard various versions of the tired old story in which black players are openly referred to as ‘quotas’
And I have heard about how the promising career of a young black player came to an immediate, tragic, stop when he was accused (wrongly) of having stolen the bat of Indian test player Sachin Tendulkar.
These stories – and others – shocked many South Africans.
But I was not surprised.
Not at all.
Advocate Ntsebeza’s report accepted most of what was said at the hearings.
The testimony of various people confirmed that racism still played a major role in the workings of South African cricket….
This is what Richard Calland, a governance expert and political economist, thought: ‘It is … clear to me that white players, in general, continue to get more chances to prove themselves, and are treated differently from black players.’
To back up his argument, he added: ‘[Temba] Bavuma is a good example: he has been in and out of the team, moved up and down the order, and when he was dropped in late 2019, Proteas’ coach Mark Boucher claimed to ‘understand the need for transformation’.
‘But then he undermined his statement by the way in which he justified his decision, patronizing Bavuma – by then an experienced players with around 40 test caps – in a way that was borderline racist or at least a ‘classic’ example of an ‘inarticulate premise’ held by some white people that black players/people are perennially or permanently ‘young’, ‘inexperienced’, ‘learning the game’ or ‘transformation selections’.
Speaking of Boucher….
One of the most damning aspects of the report was the finding that his appointment as national Head Coach, and more especially the appointment of the man who appointed him, CSA’s Director of Cricket, Graeme Smith, were both flawed from a ‘procedural perspective’.
In other words, their appointments were irregular.
In this respect, the report pointed to various breaches of Cricket South Africa’s own HR manual.
Worst of these was the interview process for Smith – basically a chat with Thabang Moroe and Ali Bacher, while other candidates were toiling over written presentations during full-on interviews – as a ‘sham’.
Well, yes, it was.
The job was Smith’s long before the interviews.
The other candidates were there for show.
‘Accordingly, the Office of the Transformation Ombudsman (OTO) concluded that the appointment of … Smith was irregular, irrational, and unfair,’ the report says.
And this was not all….
When Smith’s initial short-term contract expired, it was ‘neither renewed nor extended’. ‘Instead, Cricket South Africa and Mr Smith entered into an independent contractor agreement in terms of which Mr Smith’s services were engaged from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2022,’ the report pointed out.
It noted that the relationship between an independent contractor and an employer was a purely commercial undertaking, ‘not governed by the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1996, as amended’.
This, said the OTO, made it unlawful as it was in breach of Cricket South Africa’s own supply management policy.
The report has given CSA much to ponder over.
The key question is: what are they going to do about it?
Quite clearly they must act – or the same old cycle of nothingness will start all over again.
My take is that a significant number of members of the South African cricket’s jolly brotherhood – of whom most are white – are still unable to break away from the past.
They must be helped to make that break.
And best way to do this is to launch some high profile sackings – starting with Smith and Boucher being waved on their way.