Graeme Smith on racism allegations: It was exhausting and distracting!

Graeme Smith on racism allegations: It was exhausting and distracting!

This past weekend Smith was cleared of racial allegations by an independent arbitration panel who looked into three charges of racism relating to claims made during the 2021 Social Justice and Nation Building hearings.

The counts of “racism” included allegations that he had overlooked black wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile for selection between 2012 and 2014 in favour of white players when he was Test captain.

Furthermore, when serving as CSA’s director of cricket, he was accused of racial discrimination in appointing Mark Boucher over Enoch Nkwe in late 2019, while other accusations were related to allegedly refusing to work with superiors who were black.

However, all three charges were dismissed in the final arbitration delivered by the panel.

Smith has now commented on the findings: “I’m grateful that my name has finally been cleared. I’ve always given SA cricket my utmost, as a player, captain & administrator, over the last 20 years. 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 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.”

The arbitration award in favour of Smith contained the following information:

  • There was no evidentiary basis to conclude that Mr Smith engaged in racial discrimination against Mr Thami Tsolekile during the period 2012-2014;
  • There was no evidentiary basis to conclude that Mr Smith was racially biased against black leadership at CSA; and
  • 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.

Smith’s attorney, David Becker, revealed the feelings from the outcome of the SJN report, which had released “tentative findings” implicating Smith.

“Unfortunately, there were a multitude of opportunistic claims and insinuations made before the SJN, which were not properly tested and were clearly false,” Becker said in the same statement as his client.

“The allegations made against Graeme Smith, in particular, were made by a small group of disgruntled individuals with an obvious agenda to tarnish his good name and have him removed as the director of cricket.

“These vexatious claims and insinuations were serious and defamatory. Graeme has every right to feel aggrieved by these personal attacks. However, it is a testimony to his character and leadership that he has held his head up high throughout this process, focused on the job at hand and continued to play a hugely significant role in assisting South African cricket.

“Graeme remains enormously grateful for the opportunity to serve South African cricket.”

Could Boucher leave his position next?

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Boucher and Smith could not be suspended without opening CSA up to litigation.

In a dramatic statement released earlier this year, CSA confirmed that Boucher had been charged with “gross misconduct”, which ultimately could lead to his dismissal, something that his employers seem to be pushing for.

Part of the findings (which are available on the CSA website) revealed that the Ombudsman also found the appointments of Smith and Boucher to be “flawed from a procedural perspective”.

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