The fact that racism is still an issue in South African Cricket is testament to a failure in its leadership

The fact that racism is still an issue in South African Cricket is testament to a failure in its leadership

I know that this statement is going to raise many eyebrows and I am just waiting to be called a racist and white supremacist. But before you do, read the rest. If you do not agree with me, give me facts.

About a ago Lungi Ngidi said that Cricket South Africa should immediately put its support behind the #BlackLiveMatter movement. And since then a number of prominent South African cricketers have come out delivering their experiences that can only be outlined as a racist environment. The biggest voice to lend itself to this is probably Makhaya Ntini.

Firstly, let me make it clear, my aim here is not to contradict what these cricketers are saying, and neither, as a white man, am I going to make any excuses for this. If this is the case, and I have to give these sportsmen the benefit of the doubt, then one can only take aim at the leadership that governs cricket, and a step further, the government.

Why do I say this? It is quite simple really – LEADERSHIP DETERMINES THE CULTURE OF AN ORGANISATION.

This is a “feel good” saying, but it is true. Just Google the term and you will find about 1,920,000,000 results on the topic. Yes, it is true, we only really look at the first page of Google, and possibly the second…but go ahead, check out those two pages!

The first hit I got was from a Forbes Magazine article titled The Role Leadership Has In Company Culture[1] written on 5 September 2018, and its premise is:

Leadership cultivates the foundation of culture to empower employees to achieve the company mission and realize how vital each of their contributions is to furthering those goals. Leaders have a responsibility to demonstrate the beliefs of the company and reinforce behaviors that reflect those values.

The article is split up according the following headlines:

  • Leaders Embody the Change They Want to See
  • The Leader Drives a Thirst for Continuous Learning
  • The Leader Focuses on Social Good for Employees and Clients
  • Leaders Care About Employee Well-Being

Since 1994 the issue of transformation in South African sport has been a headline in the news. Year in and year out the discussion is raised. I had never really consciously thought about it until now, but why is it that after 26 years has transformation still not taken effect?

If transformation was implemented effectively surely we would not still have players of colour complaining about racism or not being afforded the same opportunities as white players in the sport. This also then goes further to the question of why is it that in 2020 claim can be made that there still is white supremacy in South Africa. But the general topic is better left for another discussion – for today we will dip our toe into the water and talk about cricket.

If I were to believe a word of the Forbes Magazine, and just about every single article ever written on leadership, or the countless consultants who assist in turning businesses around, then it is clear and simple – leadership is responsible for the culture of the business.

Examples of this in business would be Apple, Microsoft, Fujitsu, Google and the like. And when the leaders fail or are weak then even great organisations end up failing. General Electric under Jeff Immelt is a prime example. When Immelt took over GE as CEO, GE was probably the biggest and certainly one of the best companies in the world. Immelt managed to be CEO of GE for near on 16 years – but his legacy is summed up by the GE stock price immediately going up as soon as he announced his retirement in June 2017. GE was a massive company, but due to the poor leadership it was basically run into the ground.

So yes, leadership of an organisation is vital.

Now let us take a closer look at Cricket South Africa (CSA). CSA is the organisation that heads up cricket in South Africa, and is therefore responsible to implement its strategy. Obviously in South Africa, transformation in sport is important, and government, as part of its BEE processes, determined part of the strategy for CSA to implement.

On the CSA website they have documented a very detailed “Transformation Policy” [2]

The policy document starts with (verbatim):

This document provides a brief overview of the strategy, structures, systems, processes and resources put in place by Cricket South Africa (CSA) to ensure that cricket is a truly national sport of winners. In particular the document focuses on the transformative programme and associated targets set by CSA to achieve this.

 CSA subscribes to the targeted transformation as outlined in the preamble of the South African Constitution, as well as Chapter Two of the Bill of Rights and Equality to promote achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect and advance persons, or categories of people, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.

It is a beautiful strategy.

Whilst it says that the document is brief, it contains 72 pages. It gives an overview of where cricket was in 1992, to where it slaps itself on the back for what it had achieved by 2016.

I then assume that this document was generated in 2016 as I cannot find a more updated document on their website. I, therefore, then assume that the “transformation strategy” has remained the same for the past 4 years.

The document goes into great detail about how to uplift cricket through the various levels of the organisation, as follows:

  • Directors
  • B-BBEE
  • Employees
  • Mini-cricket
  • HUBS in RPC
  • Youth Cricket (Schools)
  • SA U/19 & Talent Acceleration Programme
  • Provincial Acadamies
  • Club Cricket
  • Senior Provincial Cricket
  • Franchise Cricket
  • National Academy
  • SA “A” Programme
  • Coach Education
  • Match Officials

From this list it is clear that every facet is dealt with in significant detail – 72 pages of detail and technical information.

And I think we can safely assume that the leadership had implemented the strategy by at least 2016, as it does pat itself on the back for doing so in the document.

So the question now needs to be asked as to how is it possible that after 26 years of driving this strategy does one of South Africa’s greatest bowlers, Makhaya Ntini, have to share his experience of being racially abused to make a point that it still exists?

Why, in 2016, was a situation allowed to fester between Aya Myoli and Robbie Frylinck?

How is it possible that leadership did not handle this effectively to ensure that this did not happen again?

And why did Lungi Ngidi have to ask his fellow cricketers a week ago to get behind the #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) movement because of what is happening in cricket?

We need to understand this, because if we look at the BLM website it is clear what their agenda is, which is:

Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.”[3]

How is it possible that there can be white supremacy in the sport of cricket in South Africa (let alone the country itself) in 2020?

The problem is that all the fingers are being pointed at white players. But how can it be tolerated by the leadership of the organisation in 2020, when it according to their 2016 document they are well on their way of achieving the goals.

If one person in an organisation is guilty of harming the organisation they are fired. But if more and more people continue doing the same thing, then it must be an issue of culture within the organisation, and as we already know, leadership drives that.

Lungi Ngidi and Aya Myoli and Makhaya Ntini and every other black player that have been racially abused are right to be pissed off. But so too should ALL the cricketers in South Africa.

Every player (black and white), administrator and employee of Cricket South Africa can “take a knee”, but this is not going to change anything.

Is it not time for the leaders of CSA to stand up and be counted because if they continue to hide behind #BLM, or whatever other movements pop up tomorrow, or even apartheid change cannot happen.

As an aside, I would have thought that with a major issue such as transformation, that the transformation policy on the CSA website would not be 4 years old. Surely there is a more updated document – but this goes to governance – of which it is clear, there is very little!


[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamcraig/2018/09/05/the-role-leadership-has-in-company-culture/culture/#15e266d816b6

[2] https://cricket.co.za/item/1943/Transformation

[3] https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-matters-2020/

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