South Africa's transformation policy June 18, 2008

An awkward step in the right direction

The abolition of the presidential 'veto' of national team selection is an enormous step in the right direction for South African cricket as it strives towards 'normalisation' yet, as important as it is, it comes shackled to a couple of backward steps, as


Norman Arendse: relieved of the power of veto © Getty Images
 
The abolition of the presidential "veto" of national team selection is an enormous step in the right direction for South African cricket as it strives towards "normalisation" yet, as important as it is, it comes shackled to a couple of backward steps, as so often happens.

Current president Norman Arendse's misuse and even abuse of the power of veto has led to its abolition but the hand-wringing anxiety of the more political administrators to have a demographically representative national team has simply led them to meddle elsewhere.

Amongst the 12 recommendations made by Cricket South Africa's transformation review committee, tucked away at No.7 on the list, is the following: "In order to promote the principles of CSA's transformation policy, the selection panel should include black Africans."

South Africans are, perhaps, more used to career decisions being taken and made on the basis of race than any other nation on earth but, nonetheless, it still looks and feels mighty shabby to reserve a seat on the national selection panel for a "black African".

Does the absence of a black African mean that the white, Indian and Coloured selectors are all naturally predisposed to selecting only players of their own creed? Would a black selector be duty-bound to push only for the inclusion of black players?

Nobody, of course, will define exactly what constitutes a "black African" because South Africa's constitution theoretically protects us from bias and prejudice. As every visitor to South Africa knows, the population is - broadly speaking - divided into Black, Coloured, Indian and White. But the boundaries are blurred and it's only a matter of time before somebody is accused of not being black "enough" to be appointed to the "black" seat on the selection panel.

It happened all the time under apartheid - except back then the issue was not being white enough.

The intention, however, is decent and honourable. The fact that "black" player representation at international level has still to extend past a tiny number of players (Makhaya Ntini, Mfuneko Ngam, Loots Bosman, Thami Tsolekile and Thandi Tshabalala) is a source of deep concern, even embarrassment.

Artificial manipulation of selection with racial quotas has shown itself to work (albeit with some dreadfully sad casualties) at youth level but to attempt to do so at senior international level has routinely led to disaster. To attempt to do so at selection level, where international playing experience is desirable and an extended first-class career is vital, could be hideous.

To the rest of the cricket playing world South Africa's policy of righting the wrongs of the past may seem awkward and unnatural, but that's mostly because apartheid was wrong and unnatural. Nobody ever said there would be an easy solution but at least a solution is being sought.

Neil Manthorp is a South African broadcaster and journalist, and head of the MWP Sport agency

Comments