June 7, 2000

King calls `play' as the hearings get under way

The King commission of inquiry played itself in slowly as it hearings into match-fixing got underway in Cape Town on Wednesday, but even before Justice Edwin King announced the first adjournment for lunch, Hansie Cronje's lawyers had hinted at which line they might take to the hearings.

The first witness to give evidence was Neil Andrews, a South African racing personality whose function was to explain the intricacies of fixed-odds betting, spread betting, line betting and all the many ways people might wager money on sports events.

He managed to raise a grin from Justice King when he suggested that he could have made money on spread bet as exactly what time the hearings would start, but under cross examination from Advocate John Dickerson, representing Cronje, he agreed with the proposition that "betting involves forecasting, but forecasting doesn't necessarily lead to betting".

Much of the first morning was taken up with arguments from television station e-tv and Live Africa, a radio news service, that the proceedings should be broadcast live, either on television, or radio, or both.

Justice King will give a ruling in this regard when the commission reconvenes on Thursday morning.

Andrews resumed his evidence after lunch and waiting to follow him were South African cricketers Pat Symcox, Daryll Cullinan and Derek Crookes.

Roughly 150 people were in attendance at the Centre of the Book in Queen Victoria street in Cape Town where the commission is sitting, among them some 30 South African and foreign journalists and a bank of lawyers who took up the front row.

A half-dozen Members of Parliament were also present when the hearings commenced, irritating journalists by seating themselves in the centre of the front row press benches. They were later moved, and one promptly dozed off as Justice Kings went through his opening remarks.

Latest: Former international cricketer Pat Symcox testified today that he was approached and offered money by Hansie Cronje during the 1995 Mandela Cup - full report to follow shortly.