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News

ICC sent complaint alleging government interference in South African cricket

The grievance comes from the South African Institute for Race Relations, which seeks to remove quotas entirely

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
03-Sep-2020
Under CSA's transformation policy, South Africa's national teams have quotas to ensure representation of players of colour

Under CSA's transformation policy, South Africa's national teams have quotas to ensure representation of players of colour  •  Getty Images

The ICC has been sent a complaint over alleged government interference in South African cricket, after Cricket South Africa confirmed it will adopt an affirmative-action policy in appointing consultants. The grievance was sent by the South African Institute for Race Relations (IRR), a 91-year old research and policy organisation, and includes six proposals for cricket in the country, among them removing racial quotas from the national team and CSA management entirely.
The ICC has not yet received the letter from the IRR.
While the IRR recognises that "that the legacy of apartheid casts a long shadow" over sport in South Africa, it has accused CSA of "years of mismanagement and political and governmental interference," which it claims has caused South Africa to stray from the values of the ICC. The IRR's letter lists those values as fairness and integrity, excellence, accountability, teamwork, respect for diversity and commitment to the global game and its great spirit.
"Fairness has given way to ideological agendas, integrity to political opportunism and manipulation," the letter reads. "Excellence has been compromised by placing sporting achievement second to political decision-making. A lack of accountability has meant allegations of malfeasance have remained unaddressed, while allowing these problems to escalate to a point where blatant racism is now CSA policy, putting paid to any ambition to respect diversity. Cumulatively, these failures have diminished the spirit of the game of cricket and tarnished the image of the sport."
The letter further asserts that CSA has transgressed against the ICC's Anti-Discrimination Policy for International Cricket, and made reference to the ban slapped on South Africa during the Apartheid era for its racially discriminatory selection criteria. Under white minority rule, which ended in 1994, South Africa's national teams only included white-classified players and only played against other white players. The most high-profile example of this was prime minister John Vorster's opposition to Basil d'Oliveria (a coloured South African player who qualified for England) traveling to play in South Africa. The incident played a major part in South Africa's isolation from international sport, which ran from 1970 to 1991. The IRR warned that a similar fate could meet South Africa now. "The increasingly worrying actions of CSA once again risk turning South Africa into a racial pariah," the letter said.
While the ICC's constitution forbids government interference, how the interference is interpreted and members are sanctioned is not so straightforward. Zimbabwe were suspended most recently for government interference, for instance. But the presence of the head of state as the board patron has never been a problem in Pakistan, where currently Imran Khan, the former captain and now Prime Minister, has effectively had the domestic cricket structure overhauled. The BCCI, meanwhile, has admitted India will only play Pakistan if the Indian government grants them permission.
In South Africa's case, the racial composition of teams has always been dictated to, in part, by government policy. In the Apartheid era, the national team was all-white and William Milton, who was South Africa's second Test captain and head of the prime minister's office, blocked Krom Hendricks from playing. Post-readmission, a quota system was introduced in 1999, which required the national team to field four players of colour in an XI. Over the years, that system has been modified and now domestic teams must include a minimum of six players of colour including three black Africans every time they take the field while the national teams must field six players of colour with a minimum of two black African players on average over the course of a season.
Despite CSA meeting those targets, it has come under fire in recent months from the sports minister Nathi Mthethwa who was unhappy with the number of white men in positions of power. In December, CSA suspended former CEO Thabang Moreo, who is black African, and appointed Jacques Faul, who is white, in acting capacity (Faul has since resigned and has been replaced by Kugandrie Govender, a woman of Indian heritage) and hired Graeme Smith as director of cricket. Smith appointed Mark Boucher as head coach of the men's national team and Enoch Nkwe, a black African who had been the interim team director, as Boucher's assistant. He also roped in Jacques Kallis and Paul Harris (both white) as temporary consultants for the season, while giving Charl Langeveldt and Justin Ontong (both coloured) permanent positions as bowling and fielding coach respectively.
The presence of Boucher and Kallis was perceived as the reunification of the clique that the former opening batsman Herschelle Gibbs once said ran the national team and has prompted widespread criticism from former players of colour in light of the Black Lives Movement that has swept through South African cricket. Earlier this week, CSA resolved to apply a policy of preferring candidates of colour for consulting roles and while Govender said the new approach is not set in stone, the IRR has labelled CSA's actions as "damaging to the core pursuit of the ICC."
The IRR has called for an end to racial quotas and called on the government to fund and secure sporting infrastructure in public schools, on the private sector and communities to assist in grassroots development, and asked that "the powers of politicians and government officials at national and provincial levels to interfere at sport at all levels must be drastically reduced, and have government focus on providing funding on bases of merit and sporting achievement."
CSA will continue to consult with the sports ministry as it seeks to reschedule its AGM, which was postponed from this Saturday.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent