SJN Hearings: Lonwabo Tsotsobe asks for match fixing probe to be reopened
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JOHANNESBURG – Lonwabo Tsotsobe says he and other black players were targeted in the match fixing scandal because of a petition they wrote to Cricket SA in 2015 concerning the lack of playing opportunities for blacks players.
Tsotsobe, who was banned for eight years for his part in the 2015/16 RamSlam match fixing scandal, called on the Social Justice and Nation Building ombudsman, Adv. Dumisa Ntsebeza to implore Cricket SA’s new Board of Directors to reopen the investigation into the saga.
Tsotsobe was one of six players, who were sanctioned following the scandal, with Gulam Bodi, cited as the instigator, banned from all cricket for life and later jailed under South Africa’s “Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act” for five years.
Tsotsobe, who played five Tests, 61 ODIs and 23 T20 Internationals, was one of the signatories to a letter addressed to Cricket SA in 2015, that outlined how black players were only picked for national squads based on their race and weren’t being given sufficient opportunities to play.
In his testimony before the SJN commission on Friday, Tsotsobe said he believed the match fixing scandal was used by Cricket SA to exact retribution against some of the signatories of that letter.
He described the handling of his sanction as being “unfortunate and unprofessional”.
“The reason why I say that is that we felt targeted. In my own opinion, the reason why I feel like we were targeted, is because of the petition we wrote in 2015. Most of the players that were heading the petition; including myself, Thami (Tsolekile), (Aaron Phangiso) – who is not implicated in the match-fixing scandal – and Ethy Mbhalati (were investigated).”
Tsolekile was banned for 12 years for his role in the scandal and Mbhalati for 10 years. Both are set to appear at the SJN hearings.
Tsotsobe went further saying that he, Alviro Petersen, who testified on Thursday and claimed there was match-fixing in the 2015/16 RamSlam competition, and Mbhalati were targeted also because they were performing well domestically and would have been candidates for the national team, but that they weren’t wanted.
“Is it a coincidence that four black players, who at the time were doing well, were then all involved in match-fixing?”
Tsotsobe also told the SJN hearings that he had been coerced into accepting his sanction and that he had never met with the Independent Chairperson of Cricket SA’s Anti-Corruption Unit judge Bernard Ngoepe.
He said the only reason he agreed to sign the sanction was to avoid a life ban from the sport. “(My lawyer) told me they were thinking of giving me a life ban if I didn’t take the eight years, so it just made sense for me to take the eight years. Eight years will go quickly. I had no other option because of all the threats and all the intimidation that was thrown our way.”
“It was a tactic of CSA to dry and drag the matter (out), so that we are exhausted financially. There were disturbing features of the investigation. I was intimidated by David Becker (who led CSA’s investigation into the match-fixing saga), threatened with criminal sanction and the laying of criminal charges in respect of the matter, which had nothing to do with the match-fixing investigation,” said Tsotsobe.
In outlining the sanction against Tsotsobe in 2017, Cricket SA stated that the left-arm seamer “admitted one charge of contriving to fix a match in the 2015 RAM SLAM; two charges of failing to disclose to the CSA Anti-Corruption Officer the full details of an approach to engage in corrupt conduct; two charges of failing to disclose full details of matters evidencing a breach of the Code by another participant; three charges of failing or refusing to co-operate with an investigation (including failing to provide accurate and complete information); and two charges of obstructing or delaying the investigation by destroying evidence and concealing information that was relevant to the investigation.”
In the same statement, four years ago Tsotsobe said: “I was, at the time, in a very vulnerable financial state and this dilemma too easily persuaded me to participate in spot fixing.”
Tsotsobe, who at one stage broke down, forcing Ntsebeza to adjourn proceedings for five minutes, told the hearings that he wanted the case to be re-opened.
“My plea to the current management and Board of Cricket SA; is it possible for this investigation to be re-opened? It might be expensive, but is it possible for that to happen?”
The SJN project was established last year by Cricket SA after a call by Lungi Ngidi for the Proteas to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement, exposed an undercurrent of racism within South African cricket.
The hearings will re-commence on Monday.