Arendse alleges cricket players' union Saca was an obstacle to transformation in the past
The players’ union, the South African Cricketers’ Association (Saca), has been accused of being a obstacle to transformation in the sport in previous years, especially when it came to the selection of black players in the national team.
The allegation was made by Cricket South Africa (CSA) board member Norman Arendse SC who was speaking in his capacity as the organisation’s former independent lead director and president.
Arendse made these claims during his testimony at the public hearings of CSA’s Social Justice and Nation Building (SJN) transformation project, which was established to investigate racial discrimination within the organisation and to also recommend remedial action.
He served as CSA president from 2007 to 2009 and later as an independent director from 2013 to 2018.
Arendse is back in cricket administration after he was appointed as one of the eight new directors on the innovative majority independent CSA board in June.
The advocate was sharing his experiences in cricket as a former lead independent director and president, and he said the players' union on Saca were repeatedly opposed to change when he was CSA president in 2008.
“Saca was often an impediment to change in our cricket, especially when it came to our national team,” Arendse told the transformation inquiry.
“That was because Saca was overwhelmingly white and it was mostly white players playing franchise cricket.
“It was very difficult for black players to break through. But because of the targets we introduced [there were] more and more black players who started playing professional cricket.”
Arendse said, in his view, Saca has since made strides in embracing transformation.
“The demographics of Saca changed and also their attitude towards transformation, but when I was president in 2008 Saca were a huge stumbling block. That changed fortunately,” he said.
“It is because of those targets that we put in place.”
The theme of the transformation hearings so far in the first week of proceedings is that racial discrimination in CSA in historic and systematic.
The inquiry has heard many testimonials and complaints over the slow progress made in relation to Africans being selected to the Proteas.
Arendse said many sports code, including cricket, who are historically white dominated were recalcitrant to change and it was the sports and recreation act that reined them in.
“The sports and recreation act of 1998 is important [and] it is because of that act that the sports minister, through this act, and the sports confederation Sascoc requires all sporting codes, including cricket, to comply with various transformation targets.
“If you do not pass certain targets and you don’ satisfy Sascoc, and the minister in terms of certain targets, it may lead to government de-recognition and defunding.
“It is an act that keeps rugby and cricket on their toes.”
Arendse said historical discrimination in cricket is not only limited to the playing field and access to the game for the black majority.
“The inquiry is not only looking at the complaints of players, there are also staffing issues and that applies to CSA as we are a company, and we are also required to comply with the law, especially in terms of procurement.”
The chairman of the CSA SJN transformation hearings, advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, has invited anyone or organisation implicated by witness in the inquiry to make a submission.
All the witnesses who have given testimony so far have done so under oath.