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

19 July 2021 - 16:18 By tiisetso malepa
Ethy Mbhalati in action for the Titans in March 2016. He is the all-time leading wicket taker for the Titans and was shocked when he saw the payslip of a white teammate.
Ethy Mbhalati in action for the Titans in March 2016. He is the all-time leading wicket taker for the Titans and was shocked when he saw the payslip of a white teammate.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Former Titans and South Africa A 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.

Mbhalati, 39, 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 SA’s (CSA's) transformation inquiry hearings.

The hearings were established to investigate racial discrimination within the organisation‚ and to recommend remedial action.  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 changeroom.

“We were in the changeroom after practice one day and I picked up a payslip. I checked the name so that I could 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 getting better contracts than me. I was inexperienced on contracts and I just wanted to be happy playing the game and making 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 just over R200‚000 per annum. I think it was around 2012, 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 played very well even though I knew very well that I was still underpaid.”

Mbhalati‚ who played for the South African A side for eight years but never progressed to the Proteas, 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 sign a new contract‚ I was asked why I needed more money because I didn't pay off a bond or a car.

“That time I was staying in a flat for free‚ paid for by the Northerns Cricket Union. I was just buying my own food so they were telling me that I didn'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 would be victimised and never 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.

He said black former player are not able to get jobs within the CSA structures while white former players are being well looked after.

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

“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 he was 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 and Makhaya said he could not sign that contract because they were paying former white players more money per working day [than he was getting in a month].

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