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Nathi Mthethwa, the minister of sport, lashes at CSA's whiteness

The whiteness of the most visible echelon of cricket in South Africa has become unbearable at government level. Transformation targets are being met on the field, but paleness persists in other, prominent areas. And Nathi Mthethwa, the minister of sport, didn't hold back in his criticism on Friday.

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At an online presentation to the parliamentary sport, arts and culture committee, CSA president Chris Nenzani was asked whether transformation was going backwards considering acting chief executive Jacques Faul, director of cricket Graeme Smith, and men's team head coach Mark Boucher and batting consultant Jacques Kallis are all white. Nenzani's reply was that they had been appointed on merit and not because of their race.

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Charl Langeveldt and Justin Ontong, the men's team's bowling and fielding coaches, are coloured, what mixed race South Africans call themselves. But the only black African on the men's coaching staff is Boucher's assistant, Enoch Nkwe - despite the fact that black Africans comprise more than 80% of South Africa's population.

Only three of CSA's 10 presidents, including acting officials, have been white and they have had two black African chief executives in Gerald Majola and Thabang Moroe, while Nkwe was the acting head coach - officially the "interim team director" - on South Africa's tour to India in October. But Nenzani, who has been in office since February 2013, is widely despised as an obfuscating lame duck, Majola was fired for not properly declaring bonuses, Moroe is currently suspended on allegations of misconduct and Nkwe was effectively demoted to make way for Boucher.

Cricket's relationship with race is at a delicate stage, not least because solutions to problems run into by blacks have tended to be provided by whites. The experience that whites have accumulated in the decades during which blacks' progress on and off the field was criminalized by apartheid legislation is an important reason why that has happened. Apartheid's lingering legacy still skews every aspect of life in whites' favour.

But that doesn't stop cricket's racist quarters, which bristle with malevolence on social media, from proclaiming their superiority and sowing distrust about the abilities of blacks in the game. It also doesn't stop blacks from wondering whether they are being wilfully sidelined by whites who think only they know what's best for cricket.

The divergent reaction to the contrasting fates suffered by Moroe, who is black, and Clive Eksteen, who is white, illustrate this starkly. Many blacks defend Moroe fervently as if there is no chance he has done anything wrong despite strong suggestions to the contrary. Many whites consider him an inept crook.

CSA said last Sunday they had sacked Clive Eksteen as head of sales and sponsorship because, Eksteen said, he cost them USD 100,000 in lost revenue. He says he will challenge that decision on the grounds that he did not make the choice that led to the losses. But legions of whites are not waiting for the end of the process to proclaim Eksteen innocence loudly and completely. Blacks have largely maintained an indifferent silence on the issue.

Had Moroe said that "everything has been okayed" for a match at Centurion next Saturday despite South Africa's corona virus lock-down regulations, and had his assertion overturned, his head would have been demanded far and wide.

Smith said exactly that on Wednesday, and by Saturday the 3TC Solidarity Cup had been postponed because the government had not given the go ahead. It's an error that shouldn't cost Smith his job. And it's not as if he has got a lot wrong since his appointment in December.

But that won't preclude people from surmising that Smith and Moroe operate under different sets of rules. "You must be able to see that," they will say. "It's there. In black and white."

Posted on June 21, 2020


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