Proteas

Former players, coaches 'not confident' in CSA's commitment to social justice

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Cricket SA president Chris Nenzani during a media briefing at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on 7 December 2019.
Cricket SA president Chris Nenzani during a media briefing at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on 7 December 2019.
Johan Rynners/Gallo Images)
  • A group of former Proteas are "not confident" that CSA will commit to its social justice pledge.
  • The cricket governing body recently launched an initiative called Cricket for Social Justice and Nation Building.
  • However, former black players have voiced their concerns at what has since transpired.

A group former Proteas cricketers and senior coaches are "not confident" in Cricket South Africa's (CSA) commitment to social justice and change. 

Back on Sunday, 26 July, 40 black former Proteas cricketers and senior coaches met with CSA's board to highlight issues of discrimination, exclusion and racial injustice that they believed had long existed in the structures of cricket in South Africa. 

That show of unity stemmed from criticism that had been launched at Proteas fast bowler Lungi Ngidi after he had taken a stance in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, with this group sending a statement to CSA highlighting their issues on 14 July. 

In response to the meeting, CSA confirmed the launch of an initiative called Cricket for Social Justice and Nation Building (SJN) that would seek to prioritise transformation, provide equal opportunities and ensure that the injustices of the past were addressed. 

In a statement on Wednesday, however, the former players, using the email address cricketunited@gmail.com, voiced its concerns at what had transpired since that meeting by releasing another statement.  

"We, as a group, have engaged with CSA privately to address some of the following issues," the statement read. 

- Dates and times for a follow up meeting with all relevant role players that were missing from the initial engagement. 

- The dissatisfaction at the language used in CSA media statements by the president, Graeme Smith and others when substantiating the brief of the last meeting. To use words such as "disgruntled", "witch-hunt", "agendas" and "not throwing people under the bus", CSA has subconsciously attributed negative connotations to our stand and statements and painted them in a disparaging light. The tactic of insinuating irrational language and aggressive behaviour to proponents of change are old ways in which the cricket establishment and media have delegitimised genuine transformation attempts in the past. The modus operandi from a system that has been indoctrinated to prejudice the black cricketer is one we have grown accustomed to and understand well. The language used has to be carefully thought about, and we trust that the empathy Mr. Nenzani (CSA president, Chris) spoke about is sincere and not just another PR message to cast aspersions on individuals.

- We were alerted that the ‘Transformation Policy’ had been signed off by the board without any consultation with relevant coaches, ex-players, current players and other role players. This highlights the continuation of the systematic discord that runs through CSA and its affiliates. The time has come for meaningful change and to stop this unproductive agenda that is deeply rooted with key decision makers within the organization. We have had enough of the lip-service messages in front of the microphone and PR company messages to hide the lack of accountability in implementing realistic and sustainable measurables. 

The statement then went on to list a number of other issues: 

- The blatant admission by the president on a recent interview that they overlooked qualified and deserving black coaches not once, but twice in favour of appeasing a select group of individuals.

- The director of cricket has not engaged most of, if not all of the pipeline coaches to further understand the best way forward under a consultative process. 

The statement continued:

"If it's a 'buck stops here' mentality then it's obvious that they have continued to fail in outlining what is the way forward for a truly inclusive South African cricket environment and we must move past these archaic suppressive ideologies, where some assume that they are aware of the plight of others," it read. 

"As a group of concerned current and former cricket players, coaches and many passionate supporters of cricket, we cannot condone this downward spiral of biasness and marginalization to the detriment of equal opportunities for our future generations any longer.

"It is against this backdrop that we must frame the individual experiences shared by ex-players like Makhaya Ntini, Ashwell Prince, Thami Tsolekile, Garnett Kruger, Robin Peterson and Mfuneko Ngam in highlighting the systemic racism they faced within our cricket. 

"We as a group are not here to attack individuals nor are there any ulterior motives or agendas at play. The reality is that systems are made up of individuals. The experiences shared have been specific and individuals will have to account for them. 

"We welcome any initiative that seeks to address these issues going forward, and with that being said, we are not confident in the SJN process that has been started by CSA. We accept that the intention is commendable, but without CSA engaging with and understanding the challenges faced by black players within the system we are not confident that they can provide a solution that seeks to address them. 

"We request that CSA adhere to the commitment to allow engagement and consultation with us and the relevant decision makers at CSA, namely, the board, CEO, DOC and relevant Proteas team management within the next seven days. We are not here to break the system, it is already broken. 

"In conclusion, it must be stated that the purpose of this group has evolved. It started out specifically as a support group for Lungi Ngidi and BLM and has since taken on a more expansive form. The make-up of a few individuals may have changed but the message remains the same. We strive for anti-racism, non-racialism, equality and demand accountability and excellence from all involved within cricket.

"We encourage all who feel they don't have a voice representing them to get in contact with us at the email below to share your story and become part of the solution going forward."

- Compiled by Sport24 staff

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