Johannesburg – The head of Cricket South Africa’s Anti-Corruption Unit said it was “very unfortunate” that the Social Justice and Nation Building hearings were used as a platform to claim that the investigation into match-fixing in a domestic T20 tournament in 2016 was racist
Louis Cole testified before the Transformation Ombudsman, Adv Dumisa Ntsebeza on Monday, providing a detailed account of the inquiry headed up by him and David Becker from 2015 through to 2016, and which led to the sanctioning of seven players, who are banned from the sport for periods ranging from two to 20 years.
Alviro Petersen, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Thami Tsolekile and Ethy Mbhalati all testified that they had suffered varying degrees of unfair treatment during the investigation, with the latter three saying they were targeted because they were black. Mbhalati and Tsotsobe, in their testimonies in July, even went so far as to request that Ntsebeza’s recommendations should include that match fixing investigation be re-opened.
“I feel its very unfortunate that they would have used this platform of the SJN – which I feel is very important for Cricket in SA and for players, as the ombud has alluded to, the terms of reference was to investigate discrimination against players, systemic maybe within the game – for these players to use this platform, which could have been used to investigate and deal with players who have genuinely been discriminated against, I think that is very unfortunate,” said Cole.
“I really feel that the allegations made before the SJN, based on the evidence that we uncovered that I presented today, in my opinion is a misrepresentation of the facts,” he added.
“For us, who investigated this – it had been over a period of 20 months – it really took its toll. I think it’s very unfair.”
Although Cole described his testimony on Monday as “just a summary,” it was a detailed account, in which he outlined the origins of the investigation – stemming back to September 2015 – and then how the investigation was conducted.
Included in his evidence to the SJN, Cole provided a 30 minute video which showed clips of various interactions he and Becker had with the players over the course that investigation, which he said was used to provide the proof that at no time did he or Becker, coerce or threaten the players, as Petersen, Tsotsobe and Mbhalati ahad alleged in their testimonies to the SJN in July.
At one stage a heated debate ensued between Cole’s legal representative, Aslam Moosajee from ENS Attorneys and Ntsebeza’s assistant, Sandile July about the value of the video. Moosajee pointed out that it was important to provide a chronological account of the inquiry which would offer proof that there was no racial discrimination while July pressed on the fact that six of the players sanctioned in the saga were black.
Ntsebeza had to remind both about the terms of reference before allowing Cole to go through his affidavit, which took over two hours.
Cole said he was reluctant to appear before the SJN, but in outlining why he was giving testimony he said that the integrity of the Anti-Corruption Unit and Code was at stake.
“There’s been a perception that has been created by the complainants at the SJN, that we basically conducted a rogue and a racist investigation. Whilst it is hurtful I have to account because they have their own reasons why they would allege that.”
“In an anti-corruption environment, integrity is a prerequisite to function in that,” Cole said.
“I have to give anti-corruption education to the players which I’ve done in the (T20 Knock Out competition) that ended recently. I have to tell them that ‘the provisions in the code require you to do x,y and z’.
“I must say that my discomfort during the around 25 sessions that I conducted now, was the elephant in the room, which was me, who is being accused of violating the provisions of that code.
“It was very uncomfortable for me, because a lot of players actually questioned me, with good intentions to say - what are these stories that are being bandied around about the process that we’ve followed that seems to be so corrupt.”
“The reason I am here is that I owe it to a lot of people to explain what happened, and what led to the players being banned. I owe it to the ICC, to CSA, my colleagues and players I have been working with for the past six years to explain what happened.”
Some parts of the investigation remain on-going with one of the protagonists – Jean Symes, who was the only white player sanctioned – due to appear in court on Tuesday. “I find myself in a very precarious position – I have to testify under oath about what happened, and it deals with the very same facts that I have to testify to under oath in a criminal trial,” said Cole.