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Former Titans star bowler Mbhalati says he was paid way less than his white junior teammates

Tiisetso Malepa Sports reporter
Ethy Mbhalati in action during his time at the Titans in March 2016. He is the all time leading wicket taker for the Titans.
Ethy Mbhalati in action during his time at the Titans in March 2016. He is the all time leading wicket taker for the Titans.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Former Titans and South Africa A left-arm fast bowler Ethy Mbhalati has said he was paid way less than his white junior teammates throughout his record-breaking decade-long career playing for the Centurion-based union.

The now 39-year-old Mbhalati served the Titans from the 2002/03 season when he made his first-class debut and played there until 2016.

During that time‚ Mbhalati played 350 matches and took a staggering 594 wickets in all formats for the Titans.

“I still hold the record for the Titans as a franchise for most wickets taken‚” said Mbhalati during his testimony at Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) transformation inquiry hearings.

The hearings were established to investigate racial discrimination within the organisation‚ and to recommend remedial action and Mbhalati was reliving his experiences and the racial discrimination he was subjected to.

The Tzaneen-born cricketer said he was shocked when one day he came across a payslip belonging to a white player on the floor in the change room.

“We were in the change room after practice one day and I picked up a pay slip and I checked the name so that I can give it to the owner‚” he said.

‘I was shocked to see how much he was earning. The guy was earning R600‚000 while I was around R400‚000 and the guy was playing only one format and I was playing all formats and always on the field.

“You see young guys coming straight from high school and will get better contracts than me.

“I was inexperienced on contracts and I just want to be happy playing the game and make money to support my family.”

Mbhalati‚ the first South African cricketer to take a hat-trick in T20 cricket‚ said he used to earn way less and that his annual salary was increased only after his then coach Matthew Maynard from England intervened.

“When it was time to sign new contracts‚ he [Maynard] looked at my contract and asked me why are you getting this money?

"That time I was earning about just over R200‚000 per annum. I think it was around 2012 or 2013 or 2014‚ I can’t remember exactly but it was towards the end of my career.

“He went there and negotiated for me for about R400‚000 plus and I was happy and I played very well even though I knew very well that I was still under paid.”

Mbhalati‚ who played for the South African A side for eight years but never progressed to the Proteas side‚ remembered how he was called into the office during negotiations for new contracts.

“I remember one day I was told during the time when I was supposed to sing a new contract‚ I was asked why I needed more money because I don’t even pay for a bond or paying for a car.

“That time I was staying in a flat for free‚ which was paid for by the Northens Cricket Union. I was just buying my own food so they were telling me that I don’t need much money.”

Mbhalati said black players at the time had no one to talk to about what they were going through and that it was career suicide to even attempt to do so.

“Once you did that it was the end of you as a cricketer. You are going to be victimised and you are never going to get another contract. I was so scared.”

Mbhalati said the inequalities and inequities when it comes to how black players are remunerated compared to their white counterparts are still prevalent to this day.

He said black former player are not able to get jobs within the CSA structures while white players they played with are being well looked after their playing days.

Mbhalati used Proteas legend Makhaya Ntini‚ who had to go coach the Zimbabwe national team because he could not get a job in CSA‚ as a case in point.

“I can give you example with Makhaya Ntini‚ he was my role model‚ for him not to get a job in CSA‚ why is he not involved.

“When he came back from Zimbabwe I had a good chat with him and asked him why are you not involved with CSA. He told me that CSA offered him a contract for a month of R20‚000.

“I asked him why R20‚000‚ Makhaya said I could not sign that contract because they are paying other former white players more money per working day‚ why am I getting that a month and he said that is why he is not involved.

“I don’t blame him if he has not submitted to this inquiry‚ he is still hurt.”