Obituary: Clem Druker - Passionate cricket administrator who embraced unity

23 June 2013 - 02:00 By Chris Barron
GENTLEMAN: Clem Druker
GENTLEMAN: Clem Druker

1935-2013

CLEM Druker, who has died in Cape Town at the age of 77, was one of the founding fathers of cricket unity in South Africa and the man who brought day-night cricket to Western Province.

In the early 1980s, Druker organised the first merger in the Western Cape of a white cricket club, Varsity Old Boys, of which he was the chairman, with a coloured cricket club, Cavaliers.

He phoned Frank Brache, who was secretary of the (coloured) Western Province Cricket Board, and told him, in Brache's words: "Enough of this nonsense, let's form a nonracial cricket club."

Brache agreed and incurred the savage wrath of the South African Council of Sport, which Hassan Howa, the previous president of the Western Province Cricket Board, had founded to oppose apartheid in sport.

Its mantra was "no normal sport in an abnormal society" and it was opposed to any nonracial sport until the end of apartheid.

This bid by Druker and Brache, who was Basil D'Oliveira's brother-in-law, to break the racial logjam unleashed a furious response from Howa's followers. Brache was denounced as an apartheid collaborator and sellout, his house was fire-bombed and he received death threats.

Druker and Brache received calls from coloured cricketers all over the province who wanted to join their new club. Such was the atmosphere of fear, however, that they insisted on joining under assumed names. Ironically, their initiative was welcomed by the apartheid government of PW Botha.

The nonracial Varsity Old Boys-Cavaliers club was used as a blueprint for the unification of cricket in Western Province.

In 1991, Druker became the first president of the unified Western Province Cricket Association. He rotated the presidency with the pugnacious former provincial cricket board's vice-president, Percy Sonn, and the two of them steered the province through the incredibly delicate process of transition over the next six years, with great success.

This was in large part thanks to Druker's almost unique ability to handle Sonn.

They were complete opposites in every way. Sonn was a hard-drinking, often intoxicated, foul-mouthed street fighter who threw wild tantrums and seldom missed an opportunity to insult whites.

Druker was an exceptionally dignified, polite, eloquent, quietly spoken man who behaved with punctilious decorum, seldom lost his temper and hated swearing.

When Sonn went on one of his frequent rants, Druker would sit and listen quietly and then say: "Are you finished now, Percy?"

Druker was born in Lüderitz in what was then South West Africa on September 28 1935. He was sent to South African College High School as a boarder when he was 14. After matriculating, he went to the University of Cape Town to do a BA, intending to become a journalist, but he switched to law and became an attorney.

He was Hansie Cronjé's Cape Town legal representative and sat next to him during the match-fixing hearings in 2000.

He got to know and like Cronjé well when he accompanied the Proteas on their tour of India after South Africa's readmission to international cricket.

Initially, he could not bring himself to believe that Cronjé had done what he was accused of and he was shattered when the truth emerged.

Druker was never much of a cricketer himself, but had a lifelong passion for the game.

One of the proudest moments of his life was finally being granted membership of the Marylebone Cricket Club after years of trying.

One of his unlikeliest honours was being made honorary vice-consul of Bolivia in the 1970s, owing to his friendship with the honorary consul, with whom he shared an office building.

Twelve years ago he was diagnosed with TB, from which he never fully recovered. He spent most of the past few months connected to an oxygen cylinder.

He is survived by his wife, June, and three children.