Former Proteas star Lonwabo Tsotsobe calls for the reopening of the match-fixing investigation
Former Proteas star left-arm fast bowler Lonwabo Tsotsobe has alleged that the match-fixing scandal a few years ago was strategically used by Cricket SA (CSA) as a prime opportunity to execute the banishment of brilliant black players and eliminate them from the system by “hook or crook”.
Tsotsobe, who represented the Proteas in five Tests, 61 ODIs and 23 T20s between 2009 and 2014, is one of seven players who were banned five years ago for their alleged involvement in the infamous match-fixing scandal.
In August 2016, CSA announced lengthy bans for Thami Tsolekile, Pumelela Matshikwe, Ethy Mbhalati and Jean Symes that effectively ended their careers for their alleged part in the 2015/16 RamSlam match-fixing humiliation.
Four months later in December 2016, Alviro Petersen, who is reported to be the whistle-blower, was banned for two years.
In January of the same year, Gulam Bodi, the mastermind of the match-fixing shame was banned for 20 years from cricket and later criminally convicted and jailed.
Tsotsobe was only charged in April 2017 with 26 counts of breaches of the CSA anti-corruption code, almost a year later than the other players, and banned for eight years two months later, in July.
During an emotional testimony at the CSA transformation hearings on day eight of the proceedings, Tsotsobe complained of procedural unfairness in the process.
The 37-year-old Tsotsobe called on the CSA management and the new board to declare his sanction null and void at best or reopen the investigation at worst.
“It was unfair and biased and it is very unfortunate the way the process was handled, which was unprofessional. The reason why I say that is because we felt targeted.”
He said the charges against him were “akin to a fishing expedition exercise” and that CSA were hoping that one or two would stick if the matter proceeded to a formal inquiry.
Tsotsobe’s matter did not proceed to an inquiry. It was concluded through a signed sanctioned agreement, which he said was only signed by him.
He said the agreement he has does not have the signature of then CEO Haroon Lorgat and raises questions about the sanction agreement’s legal effect and binding nature.
Tsotsobe said he has reservations about whether the sanction agreement was actually signed off by CSA or not.
Tsotsobe argued that, whenever an agreement is being executed, the usual practice is that the pages are initialled by both parties, and in the case of CSA, by a minimum of three people.
He believes the 26 charges against him were trumped up and derived from a single action and argues that the charges should be regarded as a single complaint.
The former Warriors and Dolphins star said he suffered prejudice because the sanction agreement was heavily reliant on multiple charges, which resulted in a more severe sanction than in an instance of a single charge.
Tsotsobe alleges that CSA was inconsistent in the application of rules and said certain white players who were also accused of the same misconduct he was sanctioned for were dealt with differently from black players.
“A case in point is that of which Alviro Petersen touched on yesterday,” said Tsotsobe.
Petersen had the day before during his testimony stated that another player, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, knew something about the fixing scandal but was treated differently.
“It seems to me that there was a differentiation of who was to be investigated and who was not. There is a discrepancy between his [Van Jaarsveld’s] version and [players’ union] Saca’s version around what he knew about match-fixing allegations.”
Tsotsobe referred to an article published in August last year wherein Van Jaarsveld said he had “nothing to hide”.
Van Jaarsveld confirmed he was approached by mastermind Bodi and said: “At the time, Van Jaarsveld said: 'At the Africa T20 Cup game in Potchefstroom‚ Gulam approached me on the Saturday morning‚ I met him that night‚ played on the Sunday and drove back on the bus from where I called Saca [the SA Cricketers' Association] where Andrew Breetzke [now Saca CEO] was the legal person. Minutes later‚ I got a number for [CSA anti-corruption unit] Louis Cole‚ who then directed me with the way forward.”
Tsotsobe testified that Saca CEO Breetzke’s version contradicts that of Van Jaarsveld.
“If I recall correctly, Saca CEO Andrew Breetzke said in interview with the SABC that Van Jaarsveld called Saca via telephone in the morning.
“Now, here is someone [Van Jaarsveld] who knew about the information of the fixing. They did nothing for three months. Was it a tactic to try and lure black African cricketers?
“I can assure you right now that at that time I was giving the selectors a headache Alviro was scoring runs for the Lions and they were sidelining him. Thami was the best wicketkeeper and making runs. He was a threat. Ethy was performing but could not get selected for the SA A side.'
“Is it a coincidence that all the black four players who were doing well at that time are all involved in match fixing?”
Petersen’s testimony supported that of Tsotsobe that it could not have been a coincidence.
Tsotsobe said “my plea to the current CSA board and management is this: is it possible for this case to be reopened?”.