Dr Jacques Faul, the former acting CEO of Cricket South Africa (CSA), has admitted that the organisation got it wrong when they appointed mostly white male candidates to top jobs at the end of 2019.
Faul is the first person to have worked within CSA's executive structures to give responding testimony at the Social Justice and Nation Building (SJN) hearing. He spoke extensively about events in the weeks that followed former CEO Thabang Moroe's suspension and the England tour to South Africa over the festive period in 2019 which saw several high-profile appointments made.
Faul admitted CSA did not anticipate how badly those appointments would be received and that, in retrospect, he would have done things differently. "The optics were totally wrong," Faul said. "We should have been politically more sensitive. It's something I regret. We should have been emotionally more intelligent around that. We struggled to fully anticipate the outcry and it was a huge outcry. We didn't anticipate that we would be viewed as a white takeover. If I knew that this was going to be the sequence of events, I would not have taken the job."
Things got immediately worse for CSA over the exclusion of Temba Bavuma, the only black African batter in the squad to play England. Bavuma had missed the Boxing Day Test through an injury but was then excluded for the next Test after recovering.
"I met his (Bavuma's) dad in the President's Suite at Newlands," Faul said. "I met a father who I could see was hurt. I remember that feeling when the headmaster catches you doing something wrong. That's how I felt. I felt we had done something wrong. I could see the pain.
"He said to me, 'Do you think my son will play for the Proteas (again)?' I said, 'I think he will. I think he will be the captain of the Proteas.' We had a very civil conversation. I could see he was disappointed. He was also trying to tell me that in this country when we do things like that, the majority of South Africans don't appreciate it. When his son became captain, he phoned me and I heard the joy in his voice. For that, I am also thankful."
Many of those with stories of exclusion have told them at the SJN but a notable absentee is Nkwe, who believed he would continue as head coach at the time Faul was appointed, only to discover eventually that he would not. "He was devastated that he wouldn't be going on and he said no-one has spoken to him for six weeks (after the India tour)," Faul said.
CSA was undergoing its own turmoil at the time, with Moroe being suspended, and Faul eventually stepping in. Within three days of coming on, Faul did set up a meeting with Nkwe.
By that point, Faul had already overseen the signing of Smith as DOC, although he was not involved in the negotiations over Smith's appointment or salary, and Smith indicated to Faul that he would appoint Boucher.
"I said to him (Nkwe) that it's my understanding that he would not continue as head coach but we wanted him to be part of the coaching panel. I asked him if he would consider being part of it as an assistant coach. He didn't agree right away.
"I spoke to Enoch's advisor and he said Enoch was really hurt by the fact that he wasn't being considered head coach. I could see he was hurt but I wanted him part of it for a few reasons. One is it's good for continuity - he had just been to India and we realised in future Temba would play a bigger role and he got on well with Temba. He had all the qualities we wanted in a coach. I also don't blame him for having an expectation. If you're in an acting position you do have that."
Nkwe, who Faul said was being underpaid as interim head coach earning "much less than what was budgeted for, even by standards in 2012," eventually agreed to work under Boucher but has since resigned. He cited concerns around team culture in his parting statement but has not expanded on that publicly since. Initially, Nkwe was identified as a successor to Boucher, who has a contract until the end of the 2023 World Cup.
The duration of Boucher's contract is also something that has come under scrutiny, because of its length. Appointed in chaotic circumstances, Boucher was given a deal that lasts more than three years, but Faul emphasised that the jobs given to members of the coaching staff were ratified by the board and in line with good corporate governance.
"When Graeme Smith requested Boucher as coach, Boucher wanted Charl Langeveldt as bowling coach, Justin Ontong as fielding coach and there were initial discussions of having Ashwell Prince as the batting coach, but he didn't want to do it. I mailed this list to the board.
"Out of nine board members at the time, there were seven people of colour. There was only one objection and that was to the duration the coaching staff would be appointed. They usually get appointed from World Cup to World Cup. Angelo Carolissen (Boland president and board member) objected to the duration because Mr Smith only signed for four months and he was appointing people for a three-year period. Professor Stephen Cornelius then said it is best practice to appoint them for that duration. The appointment of all of that staff happened more or less the same way and it was approved by the board.
"And the appointments that were made for cricketing reasons. But I admit we got it wrong. There were too many whites involved in a short period of time. Was it procedurally unfair? Not at all. Did a black board approve it? Yes, they did. Should they have been wiser? I think so. We should have been smarter when it came to that."