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Proteas coach Mark Boucher. Picture: ASHLEY VLOTMAN
Proteas coach Mark Boucher. Picture: ASHLEY VLOTMAN

Cricket SA’s decision to drop all charges of “gross misconduct” against men’s head coach Mark Boucher brings to an end yet another sorry chapter in the organisation’s recent history after an arbitration hearing over similar charges against former captain and director of cricket Graeme Smith.

Cricket SA admitted in a statement on Tuesday on Boucher that the result in Smith’s case played a big part in its decision. Smith was cleared on all three allegations of racial bias and/or prejudice by two independent advocates, Hamilton Maenetje and Michael Bishop, and was awarded costs.

“The recent ruling … in the Graeme Smith arbitration fortified the conclusion that the charges against Mr Boucher would be dismissed,” the statement reads.

Another, more practical reason, was that the two men against whom Boucher was alleged to have acted in a prejudicial or racist manner, his former assistant Enoch Nkwe and former teammate Paul Adams, said publicly that they had no desire to testify against him.

Adams released a statement with a link to his testimony at the Social Justice and Nation Building (SJN) hearings in which he speaks about an unhealthy “team culture” which included the singing of a song that included a racially derogatory nickname for him.

He was asked by an assistant to the SJN ombud whether Boucher was among the singers and Adams confirmed he was. Yet the final report by ombud Dumisa Ntsebeza created the impression that Adams had individually named and focused on Boucher.

Black Lives Matter

Both Nkwe and Adams expressed a desire to do what was “best for the game” and the Cricket SA statement confirmed that Boucher had apologised to Adams and “Mr Adams indicated to Cricket SA’s lawyers that he accepts this apology”.

The statement also implied that the players in the current squad had been asked about Boucher’s handling of the Black Lives Matter issue during the T20 World Cup last year and they had been unwilling to testify.

“Cricket SA’s lawyers engaged with various other potential witnesses over the past month and concluded that none of the three charges were sustainable,” the statement reads.

Boucher released his own statement in which he said the allegations of racism  levelled against him were “unjustified and have caused me considerable hurt and anguish”. 

The last few months have been extremely difficult to endure for me and my family. I am glad the process has finally come to an end and that Cricket SA has accepted that the charges against me are unsustainable.”

Apart from the reputational damage to Cricket SA and the professional game, the practical, legal costs of the SJN exercise and the two subsequent charges amount to more than R10m for the financially beleaguered organisation.

Some good

The current Cricket SA board inherited the obligation to hold the SJN hearings. Independent legal advice pointed them towards charging Smith and Boucher. The hope now, finally, is that some good can come of it all.

Cricket SA board chair Lawson Naidoo and Boucher made similar sounds on Tuesday, at least on paper.

“The decision to withdraw the charges brings about finality on these issues for Cricket SA and Mark and allows the focus to return to the cricket field — where we trust that Mark and the Proteas will go from strength to strength,” Naidoo said.

“I am proud to now be part of a team culture that is inclusive and whose objective is to be respectful to every person,” Boucher said. “I consider  the matter is now finalised and closed and I do not intend making further statements.…

“I look forward to continuing to focus on my job and to taking the Proteas men’s team to even greater heights.”

Update: May 10 2022
This story has been updated with additional information.

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