CSA's race focus will damage South African cricket - News24

5 September 2020 - The announcement that Cricket South Africa (CSA) will from now on appoint only black consultants in order to facilitate transformation sets the sport on a dangerous path and must be resisted.

Marius Roodt

The announcement that Cricket South Africa (CSA) will from now on appoint only black consultants in order to facilitate transformation sets the sport on a dangerous path and must be resisted.

This crass race essentialism will do little to truly transform the sport and will – at the same time – alienate cricket-loving South Africans, black and white.

CSA is an organisation somewhat under siege at the moment. Thabang Moroe has just been given the boot as CEO. There have been claims from former Proteas, including legendary fast bowler Makhaya Ntini, that they faced racial discrimination while playing for the national side. And no fewer than 30 of South Africa’s current national cricketers (men and women) released a statement through the national players’ association expressing their concern at the state of the sport and its administration.

But this move to ensure all CSA consultants are black people is wrong-headed and will do little to fix the problems in the organisation or to ensure that there is sustainable and real transformation in the game.

Bizarrely, replacing white consultants (unless it can be proved that no black South African can fulfil the role) could mean that Jacques Kallis, South Africa’s greatest ever cricketer, recently inducted into the International Cricket Council’s Hall of Fame, is prevented from working with the national side because of his skin colour (Kallis served as batting consultant for the Proteas last season).

Assuming that hiring only black consultants in future will facilitate transformation is also simply fallacious. One need only look at South African rugby to see that skin colour means little in determining whether an individual can contribute to an organisation’s being diverse and making all involved feel that they belong.

Consider Rassie Erasmus, who coached the Springboks to World Cup glory in Japan last year. By all accounts, Erasmus, a white Afrikaner, created a team environment where players of all backgrounds felt welcome and valued, ensured his Springbok side was the most diverse yet, and translated these qualities into success on the field of play. In this, he was ably assisted by his captain, Siya Kolisi, a Xhosa, who grew up in the township of Zwide, in Port Elizabeth. Despite being from the same province (Erasmus is from Despatch), the two men come from very different cultural backgrounds, yet worked together to emerge as World Champions. Would Erasmus’s two predecessors as Springbok coach – Allister Coetzee and Pieter de Villiers – have created a more welcoming environment for players of all races and backgrounds simply because they were not white?

Ensuring all CSA consultants are black will also not do much to create opportunities for all those who want to play cricket where it really matters – in our schools.

Statistics from the Department of Basic Education show that in 2018 only six percent of South African state schools had cricket facilities. Until that changes, true, sustainable transformation will remain a pipedream.

The crass racialism of CSA is also likely opposed by the majority of South Africans. IRR research shows that the majority of South Africans want their teams selected on merit, with no racial quotas. In an IRR survey in 2019, over 80% of respondents said that teams should be selected solely on merit. It is likely that most South Africans would feel the same about the race of consultants selected by CSA. Their ability to help the Proteas become the best team in the world, and finally secure us that elusive World Cup, would be far more important than their skin colour.

But the fact of the matter is that any South African cricket side selected on merit today will be diverse, making any South African committed to the ideals of the Rainbow Nation proud to have them be our representatives on the cricket ovals of the world.

If CSA continues on this path of making race the primary determinant of who can be involved in the game’s administration, it will guarantee that the sport in this country will face the same fate as cricket in our neighbour, Zimbabwe. Across the Limpopo, race rows, as well as gross mismanagement of the sport, saw the national side fall from being a team that competed strongly in international competitions to one that failed to qualify for the last World Cup. The country’s domestic competitions are also in tatters, a fate which awaits South African cricket too unless the game’s administration is fixed as a matter of urgency.

This is the background to the IRR’s decision to write the International Cricket Council.

CSA’s decision to hire only black consultants will not magically make CSA’s problems of maladministration go away, nor will it ensure that every South African who wants to play the game will have the opportunity to do so.

Making the sport a truly national one, while also ensuring that the Proteas team remains one of the best sides in world cricket, will take a mighty effort. CSA’s racialised thinking in approaching the game’s problems will only hamstring it in what will need to be a titanic endeavour of determination and fortitude.

The only qualification that matters in those conscripted into this effort should be whether they are committed to ensuring the sustainability of this great sport in South Africa – not how much melanin they were born with.

Marius Roodt is a writer and senior policy researcher at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), a liberal think tank that promotes social and economic liberty. Go to https://irr.org.za/

https://www.news24.com/news24/columnists/guestcolumn/opinion-csas-race-focus-will-damage-south-african-cricket-20200905

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