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Arbitrators clear Graeme Smith of racism allegations

25 April 2022 - 06:35
Graeme Smith served as Cricket SA's director of cricket from December 2019 to the end of March 2022 when his contract was not renewed.
Graeme Smith served as Cricket SA's director of cricket from December 2019 to the end of March 2022 when his contract was not renewed.
Image: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images

Graeme Smith has been cleared of racism allegations, his former employer Cricket SA (CSA) has confirmed.

Smith, the former captain who served as director of cricket from December 2019 and left at the end of March 2022 after his contract was not renewed by CSA, stood accused of racial prejudice against black former players and leadership figures in the body.

The allegations came from testimonies from CSA’s Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) process last year.

The SJN report, among other things, found that Smith, the longest-serving captain in Test cricket, racially discriminated against former player Thami Tsolekile during their playing days between 2012 and 2014.

The SJN, chaired by Dumisa Ntsebeza SC, said its findings were “tentative” and called on CSA to investigate further.

Smith and CSA agreed to formal arbitration proceedings and advocate Ngwako Maenetje  and advocate Michael Bishop were appointed joint arbitrators last month.

The report also found Smith looked down on black CSA leadership at the time but the two independent arbitrators cleared the 41-year-old former player.

Oral evidence in the arbitration proceeded without holdups last month, and closing arguments were heard on March 22.

CSA said the findings and evidence from the SJN process were placed before the arbitrators and witnesses were called and cross-examined by both sides.

“There was no evidentiary basis to conclude Mr Smith engaged in racial discrimination against Mr Thami Tsolekile during the period 2012 to 2014,” the arbitration award released by CSA late on Sunday night stated.

“There was no evidentiary basis to conclude Mr Smith was racially biased against black leadership at CSA.”

Smith also stood accused of racial bias when, as cricket director, he demoted then-interim head Proteas coach Enoch Nkwe and replaced him with friend and former teammate Mark Boucher in December 2019. 

“There was no evidentiary basis to conclude Mr Smith’s appointment of Mr Mark Boucher, rather than Mr Enoch Nkwe, as coach of the men’s Proteas team in 2019 amounted to unfair racial discrimination,” CSA said.

The statement said the 95-page arbitration award directed CSA to pay Smith’s costs.

“Now that finality on these processes has been reached, it is appropriate to recognise the extraordinary contribution Graeme has made to SA cricket, first as the longest-serving Test captain in cricket history and then as director of cricket from 2019 to 2022,” said CSA chair Lawson Naidoo.

“His role as the director of cricket has been critical in rebuilding the Proteas men’s team in particular and has laid a solid foundation for his successor.

“We fully appreciate that after his time as the director of cricket Graeme wants new challenges in the commercial and cricket worlds.

“He has a long career ahead of him and we very much hope he will still work in the cricket world in appropriate capacities going forward.”

CSA CEO Pholetsi Moseki thanked Smith on behalf of the executive committee for his time and efforts.

“I would like to thank Graeme for all he did as the director of cricket,” said Moseki.

“He put up his hand during a particularly tumultuous period for CSA and he has often gone beyond his contracted duties to assist CSA during his term.”

CSA said it “regrets” Smith has had to endure public disclosures of his personal information, including his alleged R5.4m annual salary, even though remuneration of the executive is publicly available in the organisation’s financial statements.


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