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Will the Cricket SA transformation hearings be public?

Tiisetso Malepa Sports reporter
Cricket South Africa has a new majority independent board.
Cricket South Africa has a new majority independent board.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

New Cricket South Africa (CSA) independent board chairperson and social justice ombuds advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza will this week meet to iron out legal uncertainties that led to the postponement of the body’s transformation hearings last month.

The public hearings begin on Monday.

They are part of CSA’s Social Justice and Nation Building (SJN) project they were established to investigate racial discrimination within the organisation‚ and had previously been scheduled to start on May 17.

But the hearings were controversially halted by the previous interim board late in the evening the day before they were supposed to commence.

CSA board chairperson Lawson Naidoo confirmed that advocate Ntsebeza‚ who is the Ombudsperson of the SJN project‚ has requested the meeting.

Ntsebeza has been in Tanzania for the past few weeks where he presided as a judge of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.

He was appointed as one of the court’s two two judges earlier this year and has been in Arusha in the east African nation‚ where the court sits.

Ntsebeza is scheduled back in the country on Wednesday ahead of the start of the SJN transformation hearings.

The hearings will now run from Monday (July 5) to July 23.

Last month‚ the CSA interim board said the postponement of the hearings was due to “further legal clarity” that was sought on the legal framework of the process.

The postponement also came at the back of a letter from a law firm representing CSA director of cricket Graeme Smith and the head of the organisation’s anti-corruption unit Louis Cole‚ which questioned the legal structure of the hearings.

Apparently erring on the side of caution‚ the CSA interim board and Ntsebeza agreed to the postponement until a legal opinion was sought.

The terms of reference were also a bone of contention after some members of the interim board pushed for the hearings to not be public.

Ntsebeza‚ however‚ has already assured the public that he will not preside over secret hearings.

“I want it to be known that I won’t be party to Gestapo-like kind of hearings where we are going to be sitting in dark rooms.

"That’s going to be the end of my engagement and I am very clear about that‚” Ntsebeza said in an interview on eNCA in the wake of the postponement last month.

The letter from lawyers representing Smith and Cole‚ said advocate Ntsebeza‚ also sought to caution that the nature of the hearings does not make people who will be giving evidence immune from defamation claims.

Prominent names of players‚ coaches‚ selectors‚ executives and stakeholders were expected to be implicated in the submissions received.

Ntsebeza is on record as saying anyone who is mentioned or implicated will be afforded a right of reply before he finalises his findings.

Naidoo confirmed that the new board has received the legal advice that was sought by the interim board.

Naidoo said the document will be shared and discussed at the meeting with advocate Ntsebeza this week.

“There are issues that are being raised around the terms of reference as well as the legal opinion that was sought [by the interim board].

"Those are the issues that we want to discuss with advocate Ntsebeza‚” he said.

Asked whether the hearings will be public or not‚ Naidoo said: “That is one of the issues that is likely to be discussed and I don’t want to pre-empt it at this point in time.”

Asked what the legal opinion was that was sought by CSA‚ Naidoo responded: “I don’t think it will be appropriate to disclose what the legal opinion is until we have had the opportunity to discuss it with advocate Ntsebeza.”

Naidoo‚ however‚ said the new CSA board is committed to the hearings going ahead without a glitch.

“We just need to clarify certain issues.

"The SJN is obviously a critical project that CSA has embarked upon and it is unfortunate that it was delayed but we need to get in up and running as soon as we can.”