Later, several people who testified at the hearings named Smith and Boucher. Ombudsmen have occasionally asked witnesses if Smith and Boucher in particular were involved in incidents of racial discrimination. But the couple’s prominence became part of the dominant story only with the submission of a PPC report, in which Ombudsman Dumisa Ntsebeza said he believed they could engage in racially discriminatory behavior. He encouraged the CSA to investigate further.
Although entitled “Interim Report”, it is the only document that the ADS received from the Ombudsman, and since it could not make final findings, it put the ADS in an impossible position. The committee could not act responsibly towards the “trial findings”, but it also could not ignore the report, throwing its weight behind the process. The only solution was to follow the ombudsman’s advice and initiate formal proceedings against those named therein; and the only lawsuits the committee could embark on were against people working with the CSA. So we come to Smith and Boucher.
The PPL was the wrong report because it was not final. She left the door open for only two figures to become the main characters, and although their level of experience means they may have always been part of the story, they are not entirely. “
There is some naivety in Boucher’s statement – which could have been extended to other players at the time – suggesting that they did not take responsibility for being part of a changing world, and perhaps did not see the need to change with that world. On a professional level, cricket has remained a white-dominated sport, even as it began to operate at the intersection of old South Africa and the new. In fact, it was more in the old, simply because there were more people who were involved on that side of history and were able to establish their way of working as the norm.
For a better understanding, we need to take a little deeper look at the then dominant sports culture, which emerged from the elite school system of hierarchy. This is how the top schools in the country still operate today, where there is harassment, unpleasant initiation rites and unspoken rules about who can do what and when. Going through it is a ritual for many young people, who have been taught to be firm and have to learn it the hard way.
So the real question we should ask is has anything changed?
They continue to hold fines meetings, continue to sing songs, and continue to use stereotypes in a half-joking, half-mocking way. Is this just part of the networking exercise that all teams go through? Or is it something that needs to be considered and considered more deeply, especially in a society like South Africa? These are questions this current group of players need to answer as they strive to move forward, from the old days when Boucher and his ilk weren’t sure how to deal with each other, to a time when they could embody the idea of unity.
The SJN made us think and talk about it, outside of cricket circles only. This gave voice to those like Adams, who said he had never had a chance to talk about his experience before, while providing a platform for defendants to respond. Smith and Boucher chose not to do so in person, instead submitting written submissions. It was their right, but it may have robbed the process of the necessary level of humanity or the ability to allow people to understand each other better.
At the same time, the PPL was an erroneous report because it was not final. She left the door open for only two figures to become the main characters and although their level of seniority means they may have always been part of the story, they are not entirely. It is only when we begin to face the outgrowths – developmental problems, women’s play, school structures, support staff concerns and everything in between – that we will see the full benefits of processes such as the PPL. It was a firefighter; now the flame must be caught.
Firdose Moonda is a correspondent for ESPNcricinfo in South Africa