EXCLUSIVE | Omphile Ramela writes to Sports Minister: 'Do Black Lives Matter?'

Omphile Ramela in action for South Africa 'A' against India 'A' at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom on 20 August 2017.
Omphile Ramela in action for South Africa 'A' against India 'A' at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom on 20 August 2017.
Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
  • Former South Africa 'A' and Cape Cobras batsman Omphile Ramela is the latest senior cricketing figure to criticise Cricket SA for lacking transformation.
  • Ramela wrote to Nathi Mthethwa, calling on the Sports Minister to act decisively against what he termed "lawlessness".
  • He criticised the appointments of eight white male executives in CSA structures and its provincial affiliates, including new Western Cape Cricket CEO Albertus Kennedy.

South African Cricketers' Association (SACA) president Omphile Ramela has written a letter to sports minister Nathi Mthethwa, scathing Cricket South Africa's (CSA) claims that it supported Black Lives Matter (BLM).

The letter, which had the subject line "Do Black Lives Matter?", was sent to Mthethwa last Friday (10 July) during a tense few days last week where cricket personalities clashed on Twitter over the ground-breaking, worldwide movement.

After Proteas fast bowler Lungi Ngidi expressed his support for Black Lives Matter, former players Boeta Dippenaar and Pat Symcox quickly criticised him, saying "All Lives Matter". CSA sent a press release last Thursday saying it stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Ramela, however, said in his letter to Mthethwa that CSA hadn't practiced what they preached by appointing eight white males to executive positions, including within its affiliates, in the past six months.

"In the last six months all eight new appointments within the executive management of cricket (CSA and its affiliates) have all been white males," Ramela wrote.

"Acting CEO Dr Jacques Faul of CSA released a compelling statement where CSA expressed its support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Before those words went cold in his mouth, Western Cape Cricket chairman Nic Kock announced the appointment of interim CEO Albertus Kennedy.

"Honourable Minister, transformation is a legislated policy, it is a law in South Africa. Therefore, whether Black Lives Matter or not, in this country it is a legislated endeavour that rests with not how me, you or anybody in the leadership feels.

"Those who consistently choose to be ignorant about this law are to be reminded that ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law. For they are breaking the law and must face the consequences.

"Minister, it is time that your office invoked every law at its disposal whether be it suspension of a non-transformed sporting organisation (s), or issuing fines, or choking funding."

Cricket SA has been under the cosh for some time regarding the fiasco surrounding the suspension of its CEO Thabang Moroe, which has yet to be resolved some seven months after the fact.

However, renewed criticism went the sport's way when former cricketers such as Ashwell Prince, Hussein Manack and Ethy Mbhalati took to Twitter to express the ill-treatment of black players within the game.

Mthethwa also recently criticised CSA at a parliamentary briefing last month, saying he felt insulted by the organisation's 'laissez-faire' approach to transforming the game.

Mthethwa said to CSA president Chris Nenzani at the time: "I felt insulted when you said you only take people on merit.

"When we talk of cricket and go to the heart and core‚ you look at the CEO‚ you look at the director of cricket and the coach; you'll find the deputy being an African."

The former Cape Cobras captain, Ramela, was also vocal in 2015 as the leader of "Black Cricketers in Unity", which wrote to CSA to stop using black players for "window dressing" after Khaya Zondo was denied an opportunity to represent South Africa on a tour to India.

Ramela, this time, wrote that it was "lawless" to defy South Africa's transformation legislation, which he said threatened the future of black cricketers that came after him.

"As a professional athlete, I did not get to reach the peak of my potential. Therefore my career ... abruptly ended because of this lawlessness," he expressed.

"I refuse to allow the same thing to happen as an administrative professional. If, as black professionals, we cannot be afforded a seat at the table then such tables must seize to exist in this country. Thus, such tables must be collapsed to give birth to the tables that are a true reflection of a South African society."

Omphile Ramela's full letter:

Greetings Honourable Minister Mr. Nathi Mthethwa

I trust you are well and keeping safe.

On the 19th of June during Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) appearance before the parliamentary portfolio committee on Sports, Arts and Culture you expressed a great level of dissatisfaction and disrespect at the lack of transformation in the decision-making positions of the game of cricket.

Minister, your sentiments are correct, it is for this reason that I am now reaching out to you: the buck starts and stops with you. Minister I will not indulge you into the current mess that is in the cricket fraternity in South Africa on and off the field. As not only is it playing itself out in public or everybody talking about it, but you have expressed discontent about it. Let me get into the gist of why I am writing to you.

Acting CEO Dr. Faul of CSA released a compelling statement where CSA expressed its support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Before those words went cold in his mouth, Western Cape Cricket Chairman Mr. Kock announced the appointment of interim CEO Mr. Kennedy. On that note let me put it to you that: in the last 6 (six) months all 8 (eight) new appointments within the executive management of cricket (CSA and its Affiliates) have all been White Males. Honourable Minister transformation is a legislated policy, it is a law in South Africa. Therefore, whether Black Lives Matter or not, in this country it is a legislated endeavour that rests with not how me, you or anybody in the leadership feels. So those who consistently choose to be ignorant about this law are to be reminded that ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law. For they are breaking the law and must face the consequences. Minister, it is time that your office invoked every law at its disposal whether be it suspension of a non-transformed sporting organisation(s), or issuing fines, or choking funding. Whatever law is at your disposal it is time to invoke those clauses.

Honourable Minister, South Africa is a society with diverse values, culture, and belief. The law serves as a mechanism to guide every leader in executing his or her duty in a manner that is Equal, Fair and Just. It is through the implementation of the law that as a diverse society we can peacefully and prosperously co-exists. Therefore, leaders who abandon the law are directly contributing to the social ills that emerge within our society. Furthermore, perpetuating structural discrimination, exclusion, and racism.

As I close, Minister, let me point to what I believe could be your departure point in decisively dealing with this conundrum. At the core of our problems is the business of sports model. Now the model does not allow the government to effectively execute its duties of providing governance and leadership. Therefore, the business of Sports model needs a revamp. In the sports fraternity unions/affiliates and the governing body need to regain their financial independence. The different entities must have their own sound and sustainable income generating model(s). Thus, making it part of the administration's core competence. Currently, you have the private sector controlling the financial livelihood of the unions/affiliates and the governing body either through sponsorship, directorship, and ownership. These structures exist to serve the interest of such private entities without financial independence. Therefore, rendering them captured by private interest. Inadvertently, making the government irrelevant within the sports and ineffective in fulfil its role. In a mixed economy like South Africa, the role of government especially within the sports fraternity stemming from the sentiments above consists of the following three core duties:

1.)  Government finances must first serve to capacitate government operations so it may provide effective human support into the sports fraternity.

2.)  To provide sustainability in the infrastructural finance.

3.)  To be an igniter of sports programs, especially towards developmental programs.

The effective implementation of this strategy will allow the government to govern and hold structures accountable for the lack of performance in conjunction with the execution of law enforcement.

It was through the political will of our democratic government that the sports reshaped the economic trajectory of my life. And has the capacity to reshape the trajectory of our economy. As a professional athlete, I did not get to reach the peak of my potential therefore my career, up to the point where my career abruptly ended because of this lawlessness. I refuse to allow the same thing to happen as an administrative professional. If, as black professionals, we cannot be afforded a seat at the table then such tables must seize to exist in this country. Thus, such tables must be collapsed to give birth to the tables that are a true reflection of a South African society. Minister, I will leave it in your hands to name the date, time and venue, and I will show up because it is time we acted on these issues.

I attach a letter I had written, on the 12th December 2019, to Mr. Nenzani and the CSA leadership at a time where I appealed to them to not abandon the principle of transformation. As principles are the values, we hold on to even when it is most inconvenient.

I trust you will receive this message with the sincerity of its intention.

Kind regards,

Omphile Ramela

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