An independent arbitration panel, while criticising the process as being far from perfect, has found Cricket South Africa’s now former director of cricket Graeme Smith was not guilty of any unfair racial discrimination in his appointment of Mark Boucher as Proteas coach ahead of Enoch Nkwe.
CSA, acting on the “tentative” findings of their Social Justice and Nation-Building Report, alleged that Smith had shown racial bias against Nkwe, who was the interim coach of the Proteas when the former national captain took over as director of cricket in December 2019.
But the arbitrators, advocates Ngwako Maenetje SC and Michael Bishop, cleared Smith of any racism and instructed CSA to pay his costs for the entire arbitration.
Smith explained his rationale for choosing Boucher in the hearing, starting with his impression of the Proteas team under Nkwe and captain Faf du Plessis on their disastrous tour of India in 2019, for which he was one of the TV commentators.
Smith described the Proteas as being “rudderless”, their performance was “way off par” and there was “quite a lot of onfield infighting between the players”.
He told the arbitrators that his view on the coaching situation might have been different if the Proteas were a more experienced team with a captain that was going to be around for the next 10 years.
‘High pressurised position’
“I felt that I needed a character that could handle … an extremely high pressurised position, you are at the cold [sic] face of the world media, the … crowds. … I felt the team at the time needed someone that had extensive … experience in dealing with conditions, with the pressures that come with the international game. I knew that this team was going to lose extensively up front, it was going to take time to build it,” Smith told the hearing.
The arbitrators found that Smith made it clear to CSA that Boucher would be his appointment as the new coach, there was no objection from CSA and no suggestion from them that this was unfair to Nkwe. The then chairman of the board, Chris Nenzani, told Smith that he had the authority to appoint coaches and CSA never insisted on proper processes.
There was also a time factor because Smith could only make the appointments on December 11, 2019 after he was appointed director of cricket, and the Test series against England began on December 26, with the Proteas needing to assemble 8-10 days before that.
The arbitrators found that the CSA directive was for long-term appointments, not interim ones, and that it was their “inaction and delays that put Smith under pressure”.
CSA’s assertion that Boucher should never have been appointed national coach because he does not have a Level 4 coaching certificate, while Nkwe does, was left standing nude in front of the arbitrators when it was pointed out that CSA were happy to appoint both Gary Kirsten and Ottis Gibson as Proteas head coach when neither of them had a Level 4 qualification.