The Social Justice and Nation Building Hearings that are currently taking place within cricketing (and broader social) circles, has opened many wounds for those who have appeared, telling stories of racial bias and discrimination.
On one side of the fence we have Ashwell Prince, Paul Adams, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Ethy Mbalathi, amongst others, claiming that they had been racially abused and discriminated against during their careers because of the colour of their skin.
Individuals in prominent positions within Cricket South Africa circles, namely coach Mark Boucher, Director of Cricket, Graeme Smith and the likes of Jacques Kallis and Justin Kemp, and others, have been finger-pointed as being culprits.
Boucher was especially under the kosh with a poor start to his Proteas coaching stint, added to the fact that he only has a level 2 coaching certificate, but now that he has turned the Proteas around, winning three of his last four series across all formats, the former Proteas wicketkeeper now has to face allegations of racism.
Smith, who is reportedly earning a whack of money, has been targeted for being in a position that was not properly advertised and that proper appointment processes were not followed.
Both heads are being called for in social media – most notably from “anti-white” circles.
Many people will argue that the sacking of both Boucher and Smith are needed on the basis of nation building and getting rid of “systemic racists” within the South African culture.
In fact, the current SJN hearings have not only polarized the cricketing fraternity, but have also polarized the media, fans and non-fans of the sport – all on the basis of race.
There are two sides to the current “racial-coin” being played out in society at present.
The first are the “victims” who have finally come forward after more than a decade, stating that their careers were curtailed and even ended due to the colour of their skin.
The second are those that are in some form trying to defend the “accused”, saying that the “accusers” are only coming forward now to bring down those in positions of authority.
These “defenders” also ask the question as to why the likes of Adams and Prince are only stating their claims now instead of coming forward when the alleged events occurred? But we’ll cover this later.
No matter what environment you are in, any form of discrimination is wrong, whether it be gender, racial, social, economic or cultural discrimination.
Adams was a fantastic spin bowler, with an action that confused most batsmen while Prince was a gutsy left-handed batsman that grafted hard and fought for every run he and his team needed.
Prince once told me at the launch of the Ram Slam T20 at the V&A Waterfront, that the pitches being prepared in South Africa were too in favour of bowlers.
He said, “Last season, people complained that the pitches were too flat and that too many runs were being scored and that bowlers had no chance. Now the pitches have been prepared so that batsmen are setup to fail.”
I suppose that each player in their respective silos will bemoan when a pitch does not suit them, that they cannot score runs or they cannot take wickets – the story of life really.
The likes of Prince, Adams and the like have stated that their careers ended when they were overlooked for white counterparts. But could the same be said for the likes of Kyle Abbott?
Getting back to the question as to why players of colour are only coming forward now with their revelations, they stated that had they come forward when the alleged events occurred, they would have effectively ended their careers on the spot.
People on social media have stated that if this was the case, then surely the players concerned were only focused on the money they earned instead of fighting for what was right – something former President Nelson Mandela did all his life!
A question that poses me to think…
So, I put myself in their shoes (I can only try). Had I been in that position, having grown up under a racial cloud, knowing that my opportunities would be limited because of how I was born. Knowing that I had a talent that might never be fulfilled because I was black or coloured or Indian.
Then seeing my future change because of those who had fought so hard to create social freedom, bring justice into a world that lacked it and give me the chance to prove myself.
Then I get selected for a provincial or franchise team, but still – in some way – feel “left out” because in the early days of “unity”, most of the team was still white.
I can only imagine the difficulties faced by these individuals in trying to make your way in a world that was supposed to be different, but still very much the same.
Would I have cried foul when I was called derogatory names, overlooked by someone perhaps slightly less talented than myself because I was not white? I cannot answer that unless I was in that situation.
But would taking money from an organisation I knew was discriminating against me be the right thing to do? Is that not agreeing in some way with what was happening?
Surely the right thing to do was to stand up to what was happening – in your eyes – and fight for what was right so that other cricketers did not have to endure what you were enduring?
Quite a few of the cricketers that appeared before the SJN were banned from cricket for match fixing during South Africa’s T20 tournament or knowing about it and not reporting it.
When tensions started to rise, these individuals started claiming that the hearings which found them guilty were racist and not fair.
Cricket South Africa has gone from one crises to the next, on the field and off it. I am truly glad that the SJN Hearings have taken place, so that we can wash and air our dirty laundry for all to see. They say that things should get worse before they get better.
But the one thing these hearings have brought to the fore, is that our society is far more racially polarized than ever before.
Every single thing that happens today in our country, is racially tainted, whether it be any combination of white, black, Indian or coloured.
Every single group is guilty of it – and not just one!