Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent
Cricket South Africa's Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearings are expected to resume in September after several parties, including director of cricket Graeme Smith, AB de Villiers and the South African Cricketers Association (SACA), were granted an extension to prepare their responses.
Initially, those who were implicated in testimony given between July 5 and August 6 were due to begin replying by August 23 but ombudsman Dumisa Ntsebeza heard reasons for why they needed more time on Monday. He agreed to allow parties to respond by September 3, and the hearings will restart the following week. de Villiers has since submitted a written response.
National head coach, Mark Boucher, submitted a written response on August 9, which was made public on August 24. Boucher has also made himself available to appear before the ombudsman. Boucher responded primarily to allegations made by Paul Adams, about being called an offensive nickname by his team-mates, and to accusations of a clique that formed in Boucher's playing days. He indicated he would submit a second supplementary response, at the conclusion of the SJN, to deal with any other specific allegations.
Among the reasons cited by those who made a case for the extension were delays in getting transcripts of allegations made against them, although the terms of reference of the SJN do not stipulate that transcripts need to be provided, the difficulties in ascertaining which allegations pertain to certain respondents and the seriousness of the nature of the allegations, which require a reasonable period of time to address.
"I don't think any of these proceedings should be rushed. We are dealing with very important matters here. They are very significant - some of the allegations which have been made, and I can talk specifically about the allegations against my client, Mr Smith. These are very far-reaching allegations that have been made against him that could and will no doubt affect the rest of his career," David Becker, Smith's lawyer, said. "Anybody who is a respondent should be given a fair opportunity to reply and the ombudsman should be given a suitable period of time to hear these responses and then to write up his report. These allegations are serious and everybody needs to be given a proper opportunity to make submissions and a proper opportunity to reply."
Becker posited that because the complainants were given 24 days from the SJN's first-call for submissions to the date they were required to submit their affidavits, a similar timeline would be suitable for respondents. He asked for three weeks, just over one week longer from the 13 days given initially. "I am not saying the identical period of time should be given to the respondents, however, I do think that should be taken into account. On August 6, I had still not received a full set of transcripts and a full set of affidavits."
The legal representative of de Villiers - who was implicated by testimony from former selector Hussein Manack and Khaya Zondo - Niel du Preez, who also represents former CSA acting CEO Jacques Faul and the Northerns Cricket Union, said his clients had not received formal notification of allegations made against them. "Notice has to be sufficient in the information contained, but the time that is allowed since the party hasn't been notified in time of the intended action and therefore may not be able to prepare their case adequately," du Preez said. "None of my clients had received a formal notice. Faul received four emails with annexures that were attached. There isn't a specific annunciation of what the allegations are, so we can only guess what that entails."
ESPNcricinfo understands that Faul will be ready to submit soon and will appear before the ombudsman. SACA is also expected to give oral testimony in addition to their written submission dealing with allegations of unfair treatment towards players of colour.
Although the ombudsman has a deadline of September 30 to present a report to CSA, he has recognised the importance of allowing sufficient time for responses, in order to maintain the integrity of the process. "In the course of this past week, it was indicated to me that certain persons or representatives of persons about whom allegations have been made would like to have more time to engage the allegations themselves and/or to respond, even if it meant that they do not rebut the allegations, they none the less would like to put some interpretation of events, the nature of which would clarify to the office of the transformation ombudsman where they would be coming from," Ntsebeza said. "I felt it was appropriate that even though we have strictures of time, in terms of the timeline we have been given to complete the SJN, my sense was that if people need time then they must get time on good cause shown."