CAPE TOWN - Cricket South Africa’s Social Justice and Nation Building hearings have been explosive to watch.
Former Proteas and others have bared their souls and relived horrific personal experiences. It has been an emotional roller coaster for all involved.
More importantly, it has flung open a door that cricket in SA has tried to keep shut for far too long.
Race relations and politics are ingrained in the DNA of SA society. Why at any stage were we naive to believe that it would not have an impact on our sports teams, and in this case cricket?
It was after all the game of cricket that set in motion the boycott of international sports teams to SA when John Vorster barred the touring England team of 1968-69 from selecting Cape Town-born Basil D’Oliviera in their squad.
Furthermore, it was the anti-tour protesters who brought the 1989 England rebel tour to SA to a halt and along with their continued support for SA sporting teams to remain in isolation that played a pivotal role in the eventual abolishment of apartheid.
The advent of cricket “unity” in 1991 after Nelson Mandela’s release from 27 years of imprisonment was momentous. Many had worked tirelessly to get cricket to this point.
The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of “unity” means “the combining or joining of separate things or entities to form one”. I have always believed that the reality of “unity” in SA cricket was always the ex-Sacos SA Cricket Board joining the previously white-administered SA Cricket Union.
It was never an equal merger due to the infrastructure and financial clout Sacu had. The suits from both sides of the railway tracks may have sat around the same table and cricketers from all races allowed to play on the same field, but that did not mean the ideologies and mindsets had changed.
The current Proteas still play at the citadels that white cricketers called home during apartheid. The players – regardless if they are white or black - still primarily come from the same schools as yesteryear. In essence, the system has remained the same. True transformation has not taken place.
I am not suggesting Newlands and the Wanderers be thrown down. Or that talented young cricketers’ not be afforded the opportunity to further their education at those fine institutions.
But CSA simply has to do more to make the game more inclusive and accessible. Boland Park cannot be the only international-grade stadium in SA that is within walking distance of a township. Furthermore young cricketers – both boys and girls – must have the opportunity to access facilities within their areas and not have to travel for miles just to have a net session.
Over the past few weeks we have witnessed first-hand the pain the lack of education has caused, with a former Protea having to endure being called a “brown s***” during a period of his life that was supposed to be the realisation of a lifelong dream.
SJN has given a voice to the voiceless. Let’s hope CSA have been listening.