Four South African cricketers, including former Test wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile, have been handed bans by Cricket South Africa for breaching the board's Anti-Corruption Code. While Tsolekile has been banned for 12 years, Jean Symes has been given a seven-year ban, and Ethy Mbhalati and Pumelela Matshikwe have each been given ten-year bans in relation to the 2015 Ram Slam T20 fixing case.
All four players have accepted the bans given by CSA. The bans imposed on the players, effective from August 1, 2016, prevent them from participating or being involved in cricket in any capacity.
Symes, Matshikwe and Tsolekile were all previously contracted with Lions, while Mbhalati was contracted to Titans.
Tsolekile, who captained Lions previously and has played three Tests for South Africa, was sanctioned for "contriving to fix a match or matches in the 2015 Ram Slam; failing to disclose to the CSA Anti-Corruption Officer the full details of an approach to engage in corrupt conduct". He was also banned for "failing to disclose full details of matters evidencing a breach of the Code by another participant; and obstructing or delaying the investigation by destroying evidence that was relevant to the investigation".
Symes, an allrounder, was banned for failing to disclose to the anti-corruption unit a payment "which he knew or ought to have known was given to him to procure a breach of the Code", according to a CSA release. He has also been charged with "failing to disclose details of an approach to engage in corrupt conduct under the Code; failing to disclose full details of matters evidencing a breach of the Code by another participant; and failing to co-operate with the investigators by knowingly providing false information to them".
Mbhalati and Matshikwe have been banned for: "Receiving a payment or incentive to fix or contrive to influence improperly a match or matches in the 2015 RAM SLAM; making a payment which in the circumstances would bring the sport of cricket into disrepute; failing to disclose to the CSA Anti-Corruption officer a payment which they knew or ought to have known was given to them to procure a breach of the Code; failing to disclose details of an approach to engage in corrupt conduct and failing to disclose full details of matters evidencing a breach of the Code by another participant."
The CSA release stated that Matshikwe had three years of his ban suspended.
CSA made its investigation into the allegations of fixing in the Ram Slam competition public last December. In January former cricketer Gulam Bodi was banned for 20 years after he admitted to contriving or attempting to fix matches during the 2015 Ram Slam T20 series.
The board's investigation was headed by independent attorney and former ICC Head of legal, David Becker, and former police Colonel and current head of CSA's Anti-Corruption Unit, Louis Cole.
CSA's chief executive Haroon Lorgat said that while there was no evidence to suggest that an "actual fix in a match had been carried out", the players had participated in "material discussions about match-fixing".
"Corruption is a very serious matter and for this reason we have devoted extensive time and resources to fully investigate every shred of evidence," Lorgat said in the statement. "We are still finalising certain aspects of the investigation.
"Whilst there has been no evidence to suggest that an actual fix in any match was carried out, these players all participated in material discussions about match-fixing. In fact, they all went further and accepted, or agreed to accept in the future, sums of money which they knew or ought to have known was given to them to procure a breach of the Code, or bring the game into disrepute."
ICC chief executive David Richardson said it was a plus if the actual fixing was thwarted, and the ICC supports the strong sanctions. "What is particularly satisfying to note is that it appears that any intended wrongdoing was disrupted before it happened, meaning the domestic games in question went ahead without any act of corruption being committed.
"The sanctions are rightly strong and, I hope, will act as a deterrent to anyone thinking about getting involved in criminal activity of this nature whether at international or domestic level."
Symes, Matshikwe and Mbhalati expressed their regret over their actions and issued apologies in CSA's press release. The release, however, did not include a statement from Tsolekile.
"I would like to apologise to my family, friends, the public who are fans of the game of cricket, my team mates, Gauteng cricket, Lions cricket and especially to Cricket South Africa for my actions," Matshikwe said in the press release. "I feel ashamed and I deeply regret being involved. I understand that I have to take responsibility and I accept the punishment that CSA has imposed on me. I am truly sorry."
Mbhalati admitted to a "bad mistake": "I made a bad mistake which I will regret for a very long time. I would like to do all I can to prevent other players finding themselves in the difficult situation I now find myself in."
"I deeply regret that at the end of my career, a career that I have devoted to the sport of cricket, my clubs, teams and fellow players, I have conducted myself in a manner that amounts to a contravention of the ethical code of conduct of Cricket South Africa," Symes said. "In hindsight, I would have conducted myself differently. I regret any hurt or inconvenience that I have caused my team, my fellow players, my family and friends and specifically Cricket South Africa."
The Federation of International Cricketers' Associations chief Tony Irish said FICA might assist the players in their recovery process. "If it hadn't been for education programme, I don't think the players would have come forward and revealed what was going on," Irish said. "This investigation would never have happened.
"These are human beings, these are players who have gone astray. They are still individuals. They are guys who perhaps need support and assistance in other ways. We will probably look to assist them in that way. This is the best education a player can get - to see what happens when it does go wrong. These sorts of things become huge wake-up calls for players."