Arendse insists black players would have never got a chance in cricket had there be no racial targets in place

Tiisetso Malepa Sports reporter
A file photo of Norman Arendse speaking during the Cricket SA transformation Indaba in 2018.
A file photo of Norman Arendse speaking during the Cricket SA transformation Indaba in 2018.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

Cricket South Africa's (CSA) independent board member Norman Arendse SC says the many black players who have played for the national team and those who've turned out in the sport's professional provincial ranks would have never got the  opportunity had it not been for racial targets.

Advocate Arendse made the observation as he gave his testimony at the public hearings of CSA’s Social Justice and Nation Building (SJN) transformation project. He shared his experiences in cricket as a former lead independent director and president at the organisation’s public transformation hearings.

He served as CSA president from 2007 to 2009 and later as an independent director from 2013 to 2018.

The transformation project was established to investigate racial discrimination within the organisation and the hearings started last week.

Arendse is back in cricket administration after he was appointed as one of the eight new directors on the innovatve majority independent CSA board.

Arendse said when CSA adopted its first transformation policy document at Newlands in 1998 there were no quotas or sanctions imposed.

He said there was an unwritten rule that the national team must at least have four players of colour.

The respected advocate said the status quo remained for a long time and believes the turning point was in 2013 when the Chris Nenzani-led CSA board took office.

Arendse was elected onto that board in 2013.

“We had an indaba and that was a big gathering where all the provinces, coaches, players and sponsors had headline speakers," he said.

“The important thing about that indaba was the theme “the Africanisation of cricket” because we are in an African country ad we must find African solutions in country.

“Emerging from that indaba, the then board engaged with the [players union] South African Players Association (Saca) in order to introduce what we then introduced as new targets.

“This was a real game changer for our cricket and its benefits can be seen because when you switch on the TV today, you will see that there are many black players playing professional cricket, batting and bowling.”

Arendse said another game changer came in the 2014/15 season.

“In 2014/15, the board then introduced a target of six black players in the starting eleven and no less than three black African players.”

But Arendse said it was the 2016 decision that set CSA on a transformation path that has yielded unprecedented success.

“In 2016 the then board made a huge decision to say that at national level, teams must (also) have a minimum of six black payers and no less than three black African players in the starting eleven.

“That also has changed the composition of the Proteas and the complexion of our national teams.

“Andrew Samson (cricket historian and statistician) will be able to give you the stats that the Proteas at times fielded eight or nine black players including four or five black African players.

“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 is historic and systematic.

The inquiry has heard many testimonials and complaints over the slow progress made in relation to Africans being selected for the Proteas.

“So for anybody to say in the first place that we are now discriminating against white players, and that we don’t select white players, especially Afrikaans-speaking white players, I mean they are clearly barking up the wrong tree because the statistics does not support that.”