CSA boss Nenzani defends Smith, Boucher appointments: 'Black Lives Matter cannot be a witch-hunt'

Graeme Smith (Gallo)
Graeme Smith (Gallo)
  • The Cricket SA board took the decision to listen to the concerns of 40 former players without the presence of Director of Cricket Graeme Smith, president Chris Nenzani confirms.
  • Nenzani says Smith's appointment went through proper governance procedures and was sanctioned by the board after multiple interviews.
  • The Black Lives Matter conversation cannot be reduced to a witch-hunt against individuals at Cricket SA, he says.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) president Chris Nenzani says it would be imprudent to reduce the Black Lives Matter conversation in cricket to a witch-hunt against particular individuals.

Nenzani was speaking after details emerged this week of a meeting last Sunday between CSA and 40 former players who had released a statement in support of Lungi Ngidi and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Some, like Makhaya Ntini, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Ethy Mbhalati, have since expressed their personal stories of alleged racial discrimination they experienced within the game.

Former national selector Hussein Manack, who sat in on the meeting, shared some of the chief grievances the 40 still had in an interview with Sport24 on Friday.

Manack, who himself applied unsuccessfully for the Director of Cricket (DOC) role, having been interviewed for the post in 2019, highlighted a range of concerns, with one of the more serious allegations that correct corporate governance guidelines had not been followed in the appointment of Graeme Smith as DOC last December.

The appointment of Proteas head coach Mark Boucher, Manack added, also needed to be explained.

Nenzani, however, confirmed to Sport24 on Friday night that there was an extensive interview process that led to Smith's appointment that was ratified by the board's human resources and remuneration committees.

Thereafter, Smith was tasked with appointing Ottis Gibson's permanent successor as head coach.

"There's a false perception that these appointments happened at the same time but they didn't," said Nenzani.

"The appointments he (Smith) made were endorsed by the board. If you look at the urgency of the situation at the time, we needed to have a management team in place. And we wanted to give the Director of Cricket a handle on that appointment.

"We needed a coach for the summer series against England, which we did (Boucher), and that was endorsed by the board."

Manack had also said that the absence of Smith from Sunday's meeting was of concern.

But Nenzani said it was the board who took the decision to meet the 40 former players and coaches without its director of cricket present.

"Graeme didn't run away from the meeting," Nenzani told Sport24.

"As a board, we were meeting those who wrote a letter and signed a statement. Graeme's name wasn't mentioned in that statement, so our first act was to listen to the concerns they expressed.

"We needed to figure out how the things raised were going to be taken forward. We've heeded their call to take action but this was only the first meeting.

"We were letting them know that we have heard them and this is what we are doing. We didn't get into substantive details or ask each individual about their experience within the game.

"We spoke broadly about the process, which involves the appointment of an ombudsman, who will be able to get into those individual experiences. Those people who felt aggrieved and those said to have committed any act - be it selectors, captains or coaches - will come and answer for themselves at the ombudsman's office.

"That will be the process and it will be fair."

Manack told Sport24 that the group raised concerns about alleged pay discrepancies between members of the coaching consultants within the Proteas technical staff at their Sunday meeting.

Nenzani, however, would not be drawn to comment on those allegations. He added, though, that there were a number of grievances raised and that emotions ran high and that a thorough and fair restorative process was needed to resolve grievances.

"There were many things raised in that meeting," said Nenzani.

"We agreed that it's not going to be the last meeting. I don't know what his (Manack's) intentions are but I'm not going to be able to comment on his statements.

"A lot of people vented their anger and their pain. And we said we will take it step-by-step. We did not open the platform for people to push certain agendas. We had an engagement and we are inviting more people to come on board."

Key to CSA's restorative process was the newly announced Cricket for Social Justice and Nation Building initiative, which included setting up an ombudsman's office where all disaffected former and current players' grievances would be heard, investigated and resolved.

This office, Nenzani assured, would be well-resourced and would offer as much support to ensure players felt comfortable to share their experiences.

"We are not saying people must not say things they weren't happy with when they were playing," he said.

"We are inviting people to be honest. For some it might be difficult because it brings up old wounds and rehashing it will feel like it's happening again.

"That's why, as part of resourcing the ombudsman, there will be psychosocial support. People can go and speak as much as they want to and be as comfortable as they want while doing so.

"From there, we will be able to say, 'how do we make sure cricket unites?' It cannot be a witch-hunt. The important thing is to root out discrimination in cricket."

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