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Graeme Smith. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/ RICHARD HUGGARD
Graeme Smith. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/ RICHARD HUGGARD

Former Cricket SA director of cricket, Graeme Smith, said he was pleased with the independent arbitration outcome that cleared him of all racism charges brought during the Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) process.

Independent arbitrators Ngwako Maenetje SC and Michael Bishop cleared Smith on all four charges of racial discrimination with costs.

“I’m grateful that my name has finally been cleared,” Smith said in a statement. “I’ve always given SA 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. It has been exhausting and distracting, not least because SA 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.”

Smith, the former captain who served as director of cricket from December 2019 and left at the end of March 2022 after his contract was not renewed by Cricket SA, stood accused of racial prejudice against black former players and leadership figures in the body.

The allegations came from testimony during the SJN process in 2021. The SJN report, among other things, found that Smith, the longest-serving captain in Test cricket, racially discriminated against former player Thami Tsolekile during their playing days between 2012 and 2014.

The SJN, chaired by Dumisa Ntsebeza SC, said its findings were “tentative” and called on Cricket SA to investigate further.

Smith and Cricket SA agreed to formal arbitration proceedings and advocates Maenetje and Bishop were appointed joint arbitrators in March.

The report also found Smith looked down on black Cricket SA leadership at the time but the two independent arbitrators cleared the 41-year-old former player.

Oral evidence in the arbitration proceeded without holdup in March, and closing arguments were heard on March 22.

Cricket SA said the findings and evidence from the SJN process were placed before the arbitrators and witnesses were called and cross-examined by both sides.

“There was no evidentiary basis to conclude Mr Smith engaged in racial discrimination against Mr Thami Tsolekile during the period 2012 to 2014,” the arbitration award released by Cricket SA stated.

“There was no evidentiary basis to conclude Mr Smith was racially biased against black leadership at Cricket SA.”

Smith also stood accused of racial bias when, as cricket director, he demoted then interim head Proteas coach Enoch Nkwe and replaced him with friend and former teammate Mark Boucher in December 2019. 

“There was no evidentiary basis to conclude Mr Smith’s appointment of Mr Mark Boucher, rather than Mr Enoch Nkwe, as coach of the men’s Proteas team in 2019 amounted to unfair racial discrimination,” Cricket SA said.

The statement said the 95-page arbitration award directed Cricket SA to pay Smith’s costs.

“Now that finality on these processes has been reached, it is appropriate to recognise the extraordinary contribution Graeme has made to SA cricket, first as the longest-serving Test captain and then as director of cricket from 2019 to 2022,” Cricket SA chair Lawson Naidoo said.

“His role as the director of cricket has been critical in rebuilding the Proteas men’s team in particular and has laid a solid foundation for his successor.

“We fully appreciate that after his time as the director of cricket Graeme wants new challenges in the commercial and cricket worlds.”

Cricket SA CEO Pholetsi Moseki thanked Smith on behalf of the executive committee. “I would like to thank Graeme for all he did as the director of cricket,”  Moseki said.

“He put up his hand during a particularly tumultuous period for Cricket SA and he has often gone beyond his contracted duties to assist Cricket SA during his term.”

Cricket SA said it regrets Smith had to endure public disclosure of his personal information, including his alleged R5.4m annual salary, even though remuneration of the executive is publicly available in the organisation’s financial statements. 

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