Graeme Smith, the former CSA director of cricket, has been cleared of racism charges in an independent arbitration process following the Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) commission’s report.
The SJN made tentative findings that Smith had engaged in prejudicial behaviour on three counts; advocates Ngwako Maenetje SC and Michael Bishop cleared him on all of them.
CSA has been ordered to pay all the costs associated with the arbitration process.
The arbitration award found that there was no evidentiary basis that Smith had engaged in racial discrimination: 1) against former wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile in the period 2012-2014, when Tsolekile was nationally contracted but was not picked for the Test team; 2) against black leadership at CSA after it was alleged that he refused to work with former CEO Thabang Moroe and 3) in the appointment of Mark Boucher over Enoch Nkwe as national men’s coach in 2019.
The last of those three ties in with CSA’s submission to parliament in March where board chair Lawson Naidoo confirmed that the appointments of Smith and Boucher were ratified by the previous board and would not be investigated further after the SJN report raised concerns over the manner in which the pair was appointed.
Now, the arbitration process has also found that Smith, in his position as director of cricket, did not discriminate on the basis of race in appointing Boucher, who faces a disciplinary hearing next month for gross misconduct. CSA is seeking Boucher’s dismissal, which, if successful, would bring a premature end to his contract that runs until the end of the 2023 World Cup.
Smith’s tenure at CSA has already come to a conclusion. His contract expired on March 31 and he chose not to reapply for the position prompting CSA to advertise the post.
“I’m grateful that my name has finally been cleared. I’ve always given South African cricket my utmost, as a player, captain and administrator, over the last 20 years. So, to hear these baseless allegations of racism being made has been extremely difficult, both for me and my family,” Smith said in a statement. “It has been exhausting and distracting, not least because South African cricket has also been going through a well-publicised rebuilding process which has required a lot of attention.
“I’m just pleased that we have now gone through a robust arbitration process before independent, objective arbitrators and I have been completely vindicated.”
CSA was silent on his departure but acknowledged the work Smith did in ensuring South Africa played cricket through the worst of the pandemic and in overseeing a fairly successful period for both men’s and women’s national cricket. “Now that finality on these processes has been reached, it is appropriate to recognise the extraordinary contribution that Graeme has made to South African cricket, first as the longest-serving Test captain in cricket history and then as Director of Cricket from 2019 to 2022. His role as the DoC has been critical in rebuilding the Proteas Men’s team in particular and has laid a solid foundation for his successor,” Naidoo said.
CSA was interested in securing Smith’s services as a consultant but they haven’t been able to as he pursues other interests. “We fully appreciate that after his time as the DoC, Graeme wants new challenges in the commercial and cricket worlds. He has a long career ahead of him and we very much hope that he will still work in the cricket world in appropriate capacities going forward.”
CSA also recognised that Smith’s tenure with them had been difficult for him and “regrets,” the “unwarranted public disclosures of his personal information, including his remuneration, during the SJN process.” Smith was revealed to earn R540,000 (US$35,000) a month, which made him better paid than the CEO.
The SJN report, which was made public in December, made “tentative findings” that Smith, Boucher and former international AB de Villiers, among others, had engaged in conduct that was prejudicial and discriminatory on the basis of race. However, in the absence of definite findings, ombudsman Dumisa Ntsebeza recommended a further process be undertaken. Smith’s arbitration and Boucher’s disciplinary hearing are the two actions CSA has taken so far. The SJN cost CSA R7.5 million (approximately US$500,000) and was over budget by R2.5 million (US$150,000). CSA will now also have to foot the bill for Smith’s arbitration.