Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent
There was no racial discrimination in the investigation and sanctioning of seven South African players for conspiring to fix matches in the 2015-16 Ram Slam, according to Louis Cole, the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) officer who headed the inquiry.
Cole was testifying at CSA's Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearing in response to claims made by Alviro Petersen, Ethy Mbhalati, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Thami Tsolekile, who agreed to bans of 2-12 years for their role in the fixing scandal.
They told the SJN that they were targeted because of their race. Cole disputed that with details of their attempts to fix matches and their negotiations involving sums of money ranging from R30,000 (US$2,000) to R1,000,000 (US$68,000), after being recruited by Gulam Bodi.
Last year, Tsolekile and Petersen made similar claims on a national radio show, leading to CSA issuing a notice of its willingness to reinvestigate if players were racially discriminated against during in the investigation.
Cole, whose testimony lasted for four hours, said there was no discrimination and that the inquiry was conducted in line with both the ICC's Anti-Corruption guidelines and South Africa's criminal investigatory proceedings.
Bodi, Pumi Matshikweand Jean Symes, the three other players involved, have not appeared at the SJN. In 2019, Bodi was sentenced to five years in prison under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act while Symes has appeared before South Africa's specialist crimes unit, the Hawks, and Matshikwe has been approached by them.
"The allegations that the players made before the SJN, based on the evidence that we uncovered and that I presented today, in my opinion, is a misrepresentation of the facts," Cole said. "It is very unfortunate that they would have used this platform of the SJN, which I feel is very important for cricket in South Africa, and also for players.
"As the ombudsman has alluded to, the terms of reference was to investigate discrimination against players within the game. For these players to use this platform, which could have been used to investigate and deal with players who had genuinely been discriminated against, is very unfortunate. We investigated this over a period of 20 months, where it really took its toll. I think that is very unfair.``
Cole presented the SJN with video evidence from interviews conducted with the players during the investigation as well as one of a cellphone camera which documented Tsolekile's meeting with a match fixer. Tsolekile could be heard telling the fixer about team selection and the players he could recruit.
"At the moment, I am talking about the definites. It's me and Lopsy," Tsolekile is heard saying in the video. "And Pumi. Symes is in, but I don't think he is going to play. If Pumi is fit he will play."
The video also contained an interview which the ICC's interim general manager of the Anti-Corruption Unit, Martin Vertigen, conducted with Manish Jain, one of the fixers Bodi was working with. Jain picked Tsolekile, Tsotsobe, Matshikwe and Petersen out of a photo board of players he had recruited to fix matches.
Jain confirmed to Vertigen that he offered Tsolekile, Tsotsobe and Petersen R220,000 (US$15,000) for a fix that involved Tsotsobe conceding more than 10 runs in an over (the over number was going to be finalised before the match), while Tsolekile and Petersen were due to score slowly. The money would be paid to the players after the game between Lions and Dolphins on November 4, 2015, provided the fix took place. But, it didn't.
In a later part of the video, Bodi detailed how he collaborated with a different fixer, who made offers of R600,000 (US$40,800) to Tsolekile and R10,00,000 (US$68,000) to Tsolekile and Tsotsobe jointly for fixing. However, the only money that changed hands was an amount to secure the players' availability for the fix.
Cole confirmed that Bodi said Tsolekile received R75,000 (US$5100), Tsotsobe received R60,000 (US4000) and Matshikwe, Mbhalati and Symes got R30,000 each (US$3000), while there was no evidence that Petersen received any money. This despite him agreeing to R100,000 (US$6800) to confirm his involvement, only for him not arrive to collect it.
The video evidence also corroborates CSA's statement, made last year, that Vaughn van Jaarsveld and Craig Alexander rejected Bodi's offer to fix and blew the whistle on his plans.
Bodi confirmed to investigators that he had "a no" from both van Jaarsveld and Alexander, who were mentioned by Tsotsobe, in particular, as having not been investigated because of racial privilege. van Jaarsveld is white, while Alexander is coloured.
Cole also explains why the seven players in the Ram Slam scandal received bans of several years when Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams, who were involved in the Hansie Cronje match-fixing scandal of 2000, were sanctioned for just six months each. "There was no anti-corruption training and there was no ICC code at that time," he said, while explaining the penalty was a "practical one".
SJN ombudsman Dumisa Ntsebeza, whose terms of reference do not include match-fixing, said Cole's testimony has added to the complexities of his task in order to determine the extent of racial discrimination in South African cricket.
"In as much as there may be an emphasis as to who became the victims of what happened in the past, there is a sense in which the irony becomes one where even the perpetrators are the victims in a sense, if what the victims are alleging turns out to be manifestly inaccurate or untrue," he said. "Then the alleged perpetrators become the victims themselves of what has been said about them.
"Which is why even within the strictures of time that this project has unfortunately been compelled to act within, an opportunity had to be provided for everyone, especially those who had been mentioned to their detriment to rebut allegations, to explain where allegations need to be explained and also to give me the opportunity to reflect, at the end of it all, what I make of the evidence."