Cricket South Africa (CSA) president Chris Nenzani has defended the appointment of Graeme Smith as Director of Cricket and warned against turning the Black Lives Matter movement into a witch hunt.
Nenzani insists that the appointment of Smith, which was confirmed a short time before the arrival of England for their 2019/20 tour, was completed above board and according to ethical procedures.
CSA DEFENDS APPOINTMENTS OF SMITH AND BOUCHER
CSA were called into question by former selector Hussain Manack who questioned the appointment of the Director of Cricket, a position he also applied for, and highlighted a range of concerns.
Smith was also absent from a meeting between CSA’s board and a group of 40 former players who came forward to discuss past instances of racism or prejudice within cricket.
Nenzani defended the Director of Cricket’s appointment and his failure to attend the meeting.
“Graeme didn’t run away from the meeting,” Nenzani told Sport24.
“As a board, we were meeting those who wrote a letter and signed a statement. Graeme’s name wasn’t mentioned in that statement, so our first act was to listen to the concerns they expressed.
“We needed to figure out how the things raised were going to be taken forward. We’ve heeded their call to take action, but this was only the first meeting.
“We were letting them know that we have heard them and this is what we are doing. We didn’t get into substantive details or ask each individual about their experience within the game.
“We spoke broadly about the process, which involves the appointment of an ombudsman, who will be able to get into those individual experiences. Those people who felt aggrieved and those said to have committed any act – be it selectors, captains or coaches – will come and answer for themselves at the ombudsman’s office.
“That will be the process and it will be fair.”
BLACK LIVES MATTER CANNOT BE A WITCH HUNT
CSA have committed to rooting out racism in cricket with a new initiative and Nenzani said this would not be the last meeting.
“We are not saying people must not say things they weren’t happy with when they were playing,” he said.
“We are inviting people to be honest. For some it might be difficult because it brings up old wounds and rehashing it will feel like it’s happening again.
“That’s why, as part of resourcing the ombudsman, there will be psychosocial support. People can go and speak as much as they want to and be as comfortable as they want while doing so.
“From there, we will be able to say, ‘how do we make sure cricket unites?’ It cannot be a witch-hunt. The important thing is to root out discrimination in cricket.”
SMITH COMMITS TO CSA
Smith reaffirmed his commitment to CSA on Saturday, after a week of what he described as unfair criticism.
“If you look at some of the things which are being said around appointments, my appointment and the appointment of my staff, I think some of those things are extremely unfair,” Smith said.
“It was good to see the President (Chris Nenzani) put that straight with his most recent comments. But I have to come back to my value system and why I got involved in this job.
“Cricket South Africa courted me for a while, I went through the same interview process as everybody else in getting the job. I got involved because I have got cricket at heart and to be part of the solution. I want to help create a strong Cricket South Africa.”
A NEW CULTURE
Smith said that he supports CSA’s initiative and hopes to foster a culture of openness in South African cricket.
“I fully support the Social Justice programme,” Smith added. “I think the initial thing is to listen internally within the current Proteas set-up and, in the build-up to the Solidarity Cup, that’s exactly what happened.
“A number of things have been surprising that have come out. I think the most important thing going forward from a culture perspective is to create a better environment.
“What surprised me the most is that there were players in the past that never felt they had a voice or could feel comfortable enough to communicate. Part of my role and that of my department’s role is we’re going to have a very big influence on how things move forward.
“I have engaged with a few players that are involved in the group of 40 and will look to engage more. I’m looking forward to getting involved in the process at the appropriate time.”