Thatscricket - News - SA~~s reaction varied to King~~s decision

Published: Friday, February 23, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg: There has been widespread reaction in South Africa to the request by Judge Edwin King, chairman of the Commission of Inquiry that led to the lifetime ban on former national hero and South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje, to end its work. King had said the challenge by Cronje's lawyers in the constitutional court regarding the validity of his chairmanship would just end up as unnecessary additional expenditure of taxpayers' money and he had asked the South African President Thabo Mbeki to disband the Commission. King said lead investigator Shamila Batohi had advised him there was no evidence to implicate any other South African cricketers or officials in match-fixing. "If we continued against people without an evidential basis for questioning them, that would have been a witch hunt," King said. But Gerhard Bothma, who cancelled his season ticket last year after skepticism that any ball on the field was a genuine one, said he did not believe all the truth was out. "They are just doing this to try to draw attention away from the bad things so that it does not impact on the World Cup preparations," said Bothma. The World Cup 2003 will be hosted by South Africa. But, Sports Minister Ngconde Balfour said King's decision was in the interests of all parties concerned and rejected claims in the media that there had been pressure on King to shut down the commission, calling that "a figment of someone's imagination." Balfour disagreed with views of local cricket commentators that the full story had not come out. "I was happy with what I heard, but there might well be some things we haven't heard, although the Judge and Batohi have said there is no reason to believe this," he said. South African cricket fans that have been exposed to the commission since it started last June have become generally apathetic towards it. "It's about time they did it and stopped wasting taxpayers' money," said Rabia Rajah of Johannesburg. "It had just devolved into one big soap opera between Hansie Cronje's lawyers and Judge King." Balfour's spokesman, Graham Abrahams, said although it was difficult to quantify the costs of the Commission so far as accounts were still being finalised, it was money well spent. "Not only in terms of cleaning up the game in the country, but also in terms of world cricket," Abrahams said. "I think without the Commission and without revelations made at the Commission, the rot in cricket would never still have been cleaned out." "As a result of the findings, the whole cricket world has been alerted to something of which they either were not aware, or if they were, chose to turn a blind eye to it, and I'm making no allegations or casting aspersions," King said. Abrahams rejected suggestions that Cronje was being made a scapegoat to protect others involved in match-fixing. "Batohi has said there is not a shred of evidence to implicate anyone else, and if anyone has such information, they have still to come forward," Abrahams said. King is yet to decide upon indemnity from prosecution, which had been promised to Cronje if he came clean. "I will certainly invite written submission from Cronje's legal team before deciding on that," he said. Cronje is facing possible prosecution for contravening taxation and currency laws in South Africa. King emphasised the Commission has not ended. He still had to submit a final report although he had submitted two interim reports already. "King should now just finish his report as quickly as he can and either clear Hansie (Cronje) or get him prosecuted, and the government and the Cricket Board should stop hiding behind commissions and other things and get their own house in order," said an irate fan Bobby de Freitas. The United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) said it accepted King's reasons for wishing to close the Commission. "We are pleased to note that the Commission has cleared all other members and former members of the team, apart from those who have accepted culpability, as well as officials and administrators," said UCBSA Communications Manager Bronwyn Wilkinson. "Now we can have the fun back in the game as players have the swords hanging over their heads removed," said cricket fan Asha Desai. India Abroad News Service

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