South Africa legend Graeme Smith, who was the former CSA director of cricket, has been cleared of racism by two independent arbitrators after allegations were levelled at him
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Cricket South Africa (CSA) commission the Social Justice and Nation-Building hearings on racial discrimination within the game last year and the commission produced a final report in December. In the report, ombudsman Dumisa Ntsebeza concluded that previous CSA regimes had discriminated against players based on their race, with Smith among those accused of racism.
Smith, who led South Africa in 109 Test matches and was their director of cricket at the time the report was published, was implicated in the decision not to select wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile after Boucher was forced to retire due to injury. Tsolekile was considered next in line after Boucher, but makeshift wicketkeeper De Villiers was handed the gloves instead.
As South Africa’s captain at the time, Smith was accused of failing Tsolekile by the report, which concluded: “The decision of the panel [not to select Tsolekile] was totally irrational and showed clear signs of systemic racism. CSA, Mr Graeme Smith and some selectors at the time really failed Mr Tsolekile and many black players of this time in many ways.”
It was also alleged that Smith was “racially biased against black leadership at CSA” and that his appointment of Boucher as head coach in 2019 instead of Enoch Nkwe “amounted to unfair racial discrimination”. However, the 41-year-old has now been cleared of racism by an independent arbitration panel.
In a statement, CSA stressed the conclusions of the SJN report were “tentative findings” and revealed the arbitrators had found “no evidentiary basis” that Smith had engaged in racial discrimination.
The governing body announced: “In the arbitration award, Adv Maenetje SC and Adv Bishop have determined that:
1. There was no evidentiary basis to conclude that Mr Smith engaged in racial discrimination against Mr Thami Tsolekile during the period 2012-2014;
2. There was no evidentiary basis to conclude that Mr Smith was racially biased against black leadership at CSA; and
3. There was no evidentiary basis to conclude Mr Smith’s appointment of Mr Mark Boucher, rather than Mr Enoch Nkwe, as coach of the men’s Proteas team in 2019 amounted to unfair racial discrimination.”
In a statement of his own, Smith labelled the allegations “baseless”, saying: “I’m grateful that my name has finally been cleared. I’ve always given South African cricket my utmost, as a player, captain and administrator, over the last 20 years.
“So, to hear these baseless allegations of racism being made has been extremely difficult, both for me and my family. It has been exhausting and distracting, not least because South African cricket has also been going through a well-publicised rebuilding process which has required a lot of attention.
“I’m just pleased that we have now gone through a robust arbitration process before independent, objective arbitrators and I have been completely vindicated.” Smith left his role as director of cricket last month.