Way back in 1978 English rock band 10cc released “Dreadlock Holiday”, a song whose chorus has made it a favourite at cricket pitches around the world: “I don’t like cricket, I love it!” Fast forward to 2022 and SA cricket fans wish they could just focus on loving the game – but boardroom shenanigans, along with troubling tales of racism and favouritism, have detracted from on-field performances. This week Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) former Director of Cricket Graeme Smith was cleared by two independent arbitrators of charges of racial discrimination. The charges arose after the CSA’s tough and sometimes emotional Social Justice and Nation-building project hearings, during which local cricket legends like Makhaya Ntini alleged they’d been victims of racism at the hands of fellow players and administrators.
The project’s Ombudsman, Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, found that Smith “unfairly discriminated on the basis of race against Enoch Nkwe” when appointing Marc Boucher as Proteas men’s head coach in December 2019, Sports24 reported. After this finding, CSA charged former Proteas captain Smith, who chose not to reapply for the Director of Cricket role when his contract ended last month.
The independent arbitrators cleared Smith of racism allegations linked to his appointment of Boucher, as well as finding that he was not racially prejudiced towards former teammate Thami Tsolekile when they played together. Boucher is not off the hook: he was also implicated in Ntsebeza’s report and has been charged with “gross misconduct” by CSA.
Whatever happens in Boucher’s case, we hope the lessons of the past few years will see South African cricket take a firm stance against discrimination and ensure that its pitches are safe, happy spaces for all who want to play the sport.