Cricket South Africa held its first cricket for social justice and nation-building meeting with more than 30 former players and coaches of colour on Sunday as it seeks to engage with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and address issues of discrimination. The inaugural session was chaired by outgoing CSA President Chris Nenzani, and transformation committee head Dr Eugenia Kula-Ameyaw and ultimately did not feature members of CSA's executive, including acting CEO Dr Jacques Faul and director of cricket Graeme Smith.
Faul and Smith were due to attend the meeting but were advised not to by Dr Kula-Ameyaw who told ESPNcricinfo that the board wanted to "take responsibility," and allow "the former players the freedom to talk." Although Dr Kula-Ameyaw informed the meeting attendees that Faul and Smith would not be in attendance when the meeting began, a number of players expressed their disappointment over the absence of key CSA personnel.
"They felt that many 'talk shops' have taken place in the past and that this time urgent action and implementation was needed to address their concerns," a representative from the group said.
Dr Kula-Ameyaw indicated that Faul and Smith would be present at future meetings, which will take place in the coming months. "It was a board engagement, and we decided to host it as such. We could not throw our colleague (Smith) under the bus. We as the board taking responsibility," Dr Kula-Ameyaw said. "We wanted the players to be free to talk. There is a lot of pain. At the next meeting, we can engage with someone like Graeme Smith."
Faul said both he and Smith were interested in attending but understood that they may need to wait until later in the process to engage with former players of colour on what is a sensitive issue. "We were invited but then the board explained to us that it would be better if we don't attend the first meeting so we allow the opportunity for players to speak freely," Faul said.
While the meeting did not bring about any concrete solutions, it provided the opportunity for CSA to meet with former players of colour for the first time since the BLM movement gathered momentum in South Africa. Lungi Ngidi was the first player to express his support for the cause, when asked about it at a press conference after CSA's annual awards, where he was named T20 player of the year. There, Ngidi said he would like to see his team-mates "make a stand" like the rest of the world.
The next day, four white former players, Rudi Steyn, Brian McMillan, Pat Symcox and Boeta Dippenaar, criticised Ngidi and asked him to campaign for mostly-white farm murders as well. That prompted 31 former players of colour and five current coaches to issue a statement backing Ngidi and imploring CSA to do the same, which they did. Alongside that, there has been an outpouring of stories of racial discrimination in the South African cricket community Last Saturday, when 24 South African players featured in an exhibition 3TC match, all involved wore BLM armbands and took a knee with CSA also committing itself to a process of healing and restoration, which it sought to begin on Sunday.