Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula has come out in support of the Black Cricketers in Unity who sent a strongly worded letter to Cricket SA (CSA) on Monday. The players sent their letter to CSA CEO Haroon Lorgat raising pertinent issues that questioned racist policies and asked for a meeting within seven days.
“The purpose of this letter is to address a fundamental problem in the national team: The quality of opportunity afforded to black African players,” reads part of the letter. “To be called to represent your country is an honour.
“Historically, and more recently, the call-up has acted to erode the black cricketers’ human dignity and self-esteem.
“They have been pushed to the margins to become ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’. There is a mistrust of black African players’ ability to perform and assume responsibility and be charged with leadership roles.”
The letter lists several incidents the players say bother them: “At the national level, black African players have become political pawns and official drinks carriers” it adds before adding, “#Drinkscarriersmustfall”.
Speaking to City Press on Friday, Mbalula said: “I support the stance taken by the players. First, I must say I am not perplexed by the issues they raise, as they are not new. The issues of players being selected, but not being picked for matches, is old – and has not only been raised by the players but the public.”
He said this was a “courageous” stance by players.
“These players are not doing this for themselves, but for generations to come.”
The minister called on the CSA to address the concerns raised by the players.
“I have heard that the CSA is planning to meet the players and I am encouraged by that. The meeting should happen as a matter of urgency.”
Mbalula said that, in the meantime, there should not be a victimisation of any player.
“There is no better place the player could have sent their memo but to the CSA itself.
“I am glad it’s not Mbalula speaking about these issues, but the players who have been there and are in the system. They are talking about issues that affect them directly.
“It’s not easy for these players to stand up and address this, but it’s encouraging,” added the minister.
In response to City Press’ enquiry, the CSA’s head of media and communications, Altaaf Kazi, sent out a statement.
It starts by saying: “The CSA confirms having received a letter from a group of black African cricketers and regards the issues raised as serious and important [enough] to be dealt with urgently and in a thorough and professional manner.
“With the CSA president [Chris Nenzani] and chief executive [Lorgat] en route to India, this matter will be deferred until their return to South Africa, when it will be given their full attention.”
Lorgat registered the CSA’s displeasure that the letter had ended up in the media.
“It is disappointing when a letter of this nature finds its way into the media, because we do not solve such issues in the media” he said.
“Matters of this nature need to be dealt with responsibly by all the affected parties before a full and accurate report can be presented to the public.”
The organisation then talks about its “sincere commitment to transformation and stance to adopt aggressive policies to reach its transformation goals”.
“It is heartening to note the transformation progress we have made over the past two years and we will not rest until we reach all our goals, including our national teams representing all the people of our country,” said Lorgat in the statement.
Some of the incidents mentioned in the letter are that:
. Khaya Zondo is the latest victim of unfair and unjust treatment. He was the reserve batsman on the current tour in India. When JP Duminy was injured “in a fair and just world” Khaya Zondo would have replaced him. Firstly, the team changed to account for JP’s injury. Secondly, Dean Elgar was flown in as a reserve batsman and played ahead of Khaya.
. Aaron Phangiso was selected to go to the World Cup, but did not play a single game.
. Lonwabo Tsotsobe’s record speaks for itself.
“But outspoken characters in our national team are sidelined. Black voices are being suppressed.
“Our being human is undervalued, underappreciated and completely disregarded.”
. Thami Tsolekile was selected as a replacement for [Mark] Boucher. “Boucher gets injured and [AB] de Villiers now wants to take the gloves after declaring to the world that he wants to focus on his batting. Why select Thami Tsolekile if he could not perform the same or better than Boucher?”
(For the full letter, go to citypress.co.za)
. Meanwhile, Mbalula yesterday congratulated AB de Villiers on his 100th test for South Africa against India.
“Congratulations to AB de Villiers on his 100th test. It is without a doubt that AB is a gem in South African sport. South Africa is proud and treasured to count AB among its sportsmen.
“AB plays his 100th test against a backdrop of being South Africa’s third-highest run-scorer in tests and he has broken several records.
“It is for these reasons that AB finds himself nominated for the People’s Choice Award in the 2015 SA Sports Awards, which will be held in Mangaung next Sunday.
“I wish him all the best,” said Mbalula.