- Former Proteas fast bowler Monde Zondeki has revealed that he once heard stories of former team-mate Makhaya Ntini crying after training camps.
- Speaking to SAFM, Zondeki revealed that despite not personally experiencing loneliness in the team, he felt he was subjected to discrimination.
- Zondeki was the third black South African to make his Test debut after Ntini and Mfuneko Ngam.
Former Proteas fast bowler Monde Zondeki, who arrived on the scene in 2002, says he knows the "pain" former team-mate Makhaya Ntini felt.
Ntini, who was South Africa's first black African cricketer, last month appeared on SABC's Morning Live where he revealed he often felt lonely throughout his international career.
The charismatic Ntini detailed how he would run instead of using the team bus to commute between hotels and stadiums as he felt his team-mates would often avoid sitting with him.
Zondeki, who had been only the third black African player to make his Test debut in 2002, told SAFM on Thursday that Ntini was speaking the truth.
"I remember when he said he needs to run back from the hotel... I've seen it once when we were in the West Indies. I used to tell him not to do that, that he was going to show me up because people are going to expect me to follow Makhaya's footsteps and I used to joke to him about that. But I didn't pick up how lonely and out of touch he was in terms of relationships with team-mates," Zondeki told SAFM.
Zondeki acknowledged that Ntini did not inform him of the main reason why he had carried out this bizarre act, which the latter later stated was to "run away from loneliness".
"Makhaya and I have spoken a lot during our playing days and after about what had happened during that time," said Zondeki.
"I knew sometimes he had this pain that he went through and he told me about it, but the running back to the hotel, I really never knew.
"It's very sad to be honest because I know during the playing times, him and Lance (Klusener) were very good friends when I got there. They were always at the bus making jokes but Lance Klusener could speak isiZulu... that was common between the two of them. You could feel like you could relate to Lance Klusener and nobody else in the team could until I got there. What Makhaya said is true. I saw it myself."
Zondeki reiterated that he could not relate to Ntini on the same level as he experienced a completely different dressing room dynamic.
"South Africa was a very different place in 1997 when he came into the team. At the time, there were a lot of senior guys in the team ... when Hansie (Cronje) was the captain," said Zondeki.
"I think the younger the generation gets the race relations get better in a way. I think just before I got there in 2002, it would've been a very difficult environment. Makhaya was also the first black guy so maybe they didn't know how to relate to a black guy."
Zondeki then recalled a story he heard from former Border coach Richard Pybus, who detailed Ntini coming back from a Proteas training camp in tears.
"I remember our coach at the time Richard Pybus at Border told me that Makhaya would come back crying from camps, he had tears in his eyes on the way he felt that he had been treated when they travelled together. But I was lucky when I got there, he was there and Mfuneko Ngam had been there. There were certainly more players of colour when I got there: Justin Ontong, Robin Petersen, Charl Langeveldt. So there was a lot more people that I could relate to as a player of colour."
Without naming any names, Zondeki continued to relate a personal experience of where one of the coaches told him he would only play for the Proteas if he replaced Ntini. Zondeki emphasised this was purely his interpretation and he wasn't sure if it was racially-implied.
"I had a confrontation with one of the coaches, I'm not going to name any names, it's not about them, it's about the stories. It happened after I had a really good season with the Cobras. I don't know how he meant it when he said it to me, but I took it as I'm just there to replace another black guy and that's how it felt when he said it. Those weren't his words, that's how I interpreted it. I was having a really good season, surely I could play with Makhaya in the same team if someone else was injured or going through a bad patch? It was pretty much 'when Makhaya's done, you'll be next in line'."
Zondeki went on to play six Tests, 13 ODIs and 1 T20 for the Proteas between 2002-2008.
The Black Lives Matter movement's traction began when Proteas fast bowler Lungi Ngidi stated that he would take the matter into Proteas the dressing room.
This received backlash from ex-South African cricketers Rudi Steyn, Pat Symcox and Boeta Dippenaar, who argued that "all lives matter".
Since then 30 former Proteas - all of colour - signed and expressed their support for Ngidi and the Black Lives Matter movement, which Zondeki and Ntini were involved in.
Last month, 40 black former Proteas cricketers and senior coaches - including Zondeki and Ntini - met with Cricket South Africa's board to highlight issues of discrimination, exclusion and racial injustice.
- Compiled by Lynn Butler