Basson on transformation crisis in Gauteng cricket: 'We should not be even having this discussion in 2020'

27 May 2020 - 08:00
By Tiisetso Malepa
A file photo of veteran sport administrator Dr Willie Basson briefing the media after a Cricket South Africa board meeting during his time as the governing body's acting president.
Image: Duif du Toit / Gallo Images A file photo of veteran sport administrator Dr Willie Basson briefing the media after a Cricket South Africa board meeting during his time as the governing body's acting president.

The findings and recommendations of the Langa commission of inquiry into the affairs of Gauteng cricket are “as valid as they were when they were first published as they are today”, said Dr Willie Basson.

The veteran sport administrator and scientist was one of the commissioners of the Langa commission and also served as Cricket South Africa (CSA) acting president for over a year during a time of strife as the governing body underwent a process of restructuring almost a decade ago.

“From a transformation aspect, it would appear to me that the Gauteng cricket board is a very unstable entity,” Dr Basson told TimesLIVE in a wide-ranging interview on transformation in cricket in South Africa.

“Gauteng problems with respect to transformation are quite unique in a sense that the old white clubs were very reluctant to relinquish control from the Gauteng board.

“We should not be even having this discussion in 2020. Transformation and change should not be an issue to the extent that what it appears to be in Gauteng cricket.”

Dr Basson was reacting to the CSA-commissioned Ngoepe report, which found that transformation in Gauteng cricket has not been “substantially achieved”.

The Ngoepe report found that there has only been "cosmetic" transformations changes in Gauteng since 2013. 

The retired Judge Ngoepe upheld the Langa findings and recommendations of 2010 when tabling his 60-page report to the CSA board in December 2019.

Central Gauteng Lions (CGL) made history this week when the provincial board became the second in South African cricket history to elect a female president.

Anne Villas took over control of cricket in Gauteng earlier this week but her ascendance to authority has not escaped the problems besetting the provincial board, notorious for its racial divisions.

The first woman to lead a province was current Free State Cricket President and Chairperson of the Board Zola Thamae, who is also CSA Non-Independent Director.

The election of the new CGL board, which Vilas chairs, was not in line with both the Langa and Ngoepe recommendations.

CSA told TimesLIVE it has noted the “outcome(s)” of the Gauteng elections of May 9.

CSA president Chris Nenzani and acting chief executive Dr Jacques Faul are yet to be quoted endorsing the composition of the Gauteng board in a clear indication the new CGL leadership could face hurdles.

The newly elected CGL leadership, however, will be introduced to the media in an electronical briefing on Friday.

The internal squabbles within the CGL have a long history with the previously advantaged (white) clubs and previously disadvantaged (black) clubs at loggerheads.

Central to the squabbling is the racial composition of the board.

Some clubs believe that transformation has been achieved and that the Langa Report has served its course and should no longer apply with a new regime ushered in.

Others hold a completely opposing view.

It was as a result of these fundamental disagreements that CSA mandated Ngoepe to institute an inquiry. 

During the hearings, the Wanderers Cricket Club, Heidelberg Cricket Club and Calypso Old Maristonians Cricket submitted that the Langa report has run its course and should be set aside.

The clubs, all from previously advantaged backgrounds, were some who called for the abolishment racial interest groups at the CGL and that non-independent board members should be subject to election in an open democratic vote.

The clubs argued that the Langa report divided clubs into racial silos and perpetuated the divisions.

Ngoepe cited a lack of facilities in the Gauteng townships as a major dent in transforming the game.

Newly elected CGL non-independent board member Mark Patterson belongs to a group that is convinced Gauteng cricket has transformed and that the Langa report should be set aside.

On behalf of previously advantaged clubs during the Ngoepe hearings, Patterson pointed to the fact that Gauteng cricket clubs, even the senior team the Lions, can field players of colour at any given time more than any other franchise in the country can.

Patterson argued that some of the previously advantaged clubs have several black players, at some clubs in the majority.

“If the objective has not been fully achieved, it has, at the very least, been substantially achieved,” said Patterson.

“Some Previously Advantaged Clubs (PAC) clubs are almost 100% non-white in their membership base.

"PAC clubs are where true transformation is occurring," said Patterson, adding that the PAC clubs are "institutions of excellence that have created environments that don’t see colour and get on with providing quality of opportunity for players of colour”.

But Dr Basson pushed back and slammed those who use fielding players of colour and having black coaches as a barometer for transforming.

“The fact that you have got some black players in the Lions team does not take away the fact that those white clubs are still not transformed. You can’t hide behind that,” said Dr  Basson.

“The fact that the Lions provincial team is reasonable transformed is no excuse for clubs not to be transformed. No excuse.

“The whole of Soweto has been isolated and not part of the cricket setup for a very long time.

“After more than 30 years we still have the same debate after a very good research project found that the Langa Report, despite its 10 years of existence, is still exactly valid today as it was when it was first published.

“It appears that there are elements of resistance within cricket in Gauteng. One must find out what is the cause of that,” said Dr Basson.

The Diepsloot Cricket Club weighed in and said “club cricket in the township is almost nonexistence as the grounds are not suitable and investment is required, which CGL do not have”.

The Soweto Cricket Club lamented the disparities when it comes to resources and the provision of facilities.

“CGL will be fully transformed when we have in Gauteng 64 township having cricket club not only 10 clubs as what we have currently.”

Asked for a plan of action to ensure that CGL complies with the Ngoepe recommendations, the governing body said “We will engage with the CGL to discuss a way forward and to understand why the CGL did not follow the recommendations of the report.  These engagements will take place before the end of June 2020.”