Nolubabalo Ndzundzu during the Cricket South Africa Social Justice and National Building at the Olympic House, Johannesburg on 28 August 2020. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Nolubabalo Ndzundzu during the Cricket South Africa Social Justice and National Building at the Olympic House, Johannesburg on 28 August 2020. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

SJN Hearings: First black African woman to play for SA felt embarrassed about language barrier in national team

By Stuart Hess Time of article published Jul 21, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG – Nolu Ndzundzu, the first black African woman to represent South Africa’s woman’s cricket side, said she felt humiliated after being told that if she spoke in her home language Xhosa in front of her national teammates, she was being “rude.”

Ndzundzu testified on Wednesday at the Social Justice and Nation Building commission about her playing career that included making 16 appearances for South Africa in ODIs, and also one in a Test against England in 2003.

Ndundzu, who grew up in Masingata, near King Williams Town, described to the commission how she faced numerous challenges as a black woman, trying to play a game she first fell in love with as a youngster playing with her brothers.

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From the dangers of travelling late at night between her home town and East London, to train, and then her experiences as part of the national women’s team when it was an amateur side, Ndzundzu offered a glimpse of many troubling experiences.

“Because of where I grew up, we didn’t speak English, and I used to be very embarrassed when I was asked to speak English. There was one day, we had to do team photo, and I was wearing long sleeves and we were supposed to wear short sleeves, but I didn’t understand what was said when they told us to wear the short sleeves because my English was bad. I was very very embarrassed,” said Ndzundzu.

She said that for most of her career, she was the only black African player in the South African team, and as a result, found it difficult to bond with other players. “I was told that speaking by isiXhosa, I was being rude to others, even though there were Afrikaans players and they spoke Afrikaans, even in team meetings if they didn’t understand what was being said in English.”

ALSO READ: SJN Hearings: Black players were targeted in match fixing investigation, says Thami Tsolekile

Following the end of her playing career Ndzundzu became a police officer, to help out her family financially. “I had to look for a job. I’d spent more than five years in the national team, going on all the tours and I didn’t earn anything. I was only getting meal allowances,” she told the commission.

Cricket SA only started contracting players in the national woman’s team for the first time in 2013, when six players were rewarded contracts. Fifteen players were awarded national contracts this year.

Ndzundzu has subsequently worked with Border cricket, serving as a selection convenor for the that province’s women’s team and also been involved in building club structures for girls in the rural areas.

ALSO READ: SJN Hearings: Graeme Smith didn’t want me in his Proteas team, says Thami Tsolekile

“I feel that Cricket SA should apologise for the ignorance of not paying attention to me as a player and not caring for me about the fact that I was mistreated because of my race and because of my gender,” she told the SJN hearing. “Having been aware of my contribution and representation, they didn’t take any interest in discovering how my career was going and whether I was happy.”

“It is very important for me to get the recognition because as a woman from the rural areas, it meant that I needed to be extra dedicated, work harder than the average person, and continued to be disciplined in the game for me to be the first black woman to represent South Africa at national and international level. As a result, I don’t feel it must be unrecognised that I made it into the team with all that I was faced with,” she added.

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.

ALSO READ: Ethy Mbhalati becomes second player to tell SJN he wants match fixing investigation to be re-opened

Paul Adams and Loots Bosman are scheduled to appear at SJN hearings later this week.


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