SA govt, UCBSA in unseemly row over quota issue

Published: Friday, November 1, 2002, 22:34 [IST]
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Cape Town: Barely three months before South Africa hosts the 2003 cricket World Cup, the country's government and cricket Board were at loggerheads on Thursday over the Board's scrapping of race quotas.

Sports Minister Ngconde Balfour released a report, which recommended that quotas, setting out the minimum number of black players to be included in provincial and national teams, be reinstated. The Board, which scrapped quotas in July because it believed racial transformation in cricket was an established fact, rejected the report and released minutes of a meeting with Balfour in which the minister made inflammatory comments about the sport. Balfour was quoted in the minutes as saying he went to cricket to watch black players like Makhaya Ntini and Paul Adams. He said he did not go to watch (white) players like Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis. "Who is Jacques Kallis? Jacques Kallis means nothing to me," he said, adding that black people wanted black people on the field. At a press conference at which he released the report on Thursday, he responded by saying he supported all members of the South African team but that he had been particularly excited in a Test match at Newlands last season when Ntini and Adams were bowling in tandem against Australia. Ministerial spokesman Graham Abrahams stopped further questions about the minutes because he said the ministry had not seen a copy of them. Percy Sonn, president of the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA), who released the minutes, which were taken at a meeting on July 10, three days after the Board decided to scrap quotas, said the UCBSA stood by its decision that the UCBSA rejected the terms of reference and the composition of the commission set up by the minister. Balfour accused Sonn of being "a law unto himself" and said the commission had found there had not been enough consultation within cricket before the decision was taken to scrap quotas. The commission, headed by East London lawyer John Smith, recommended that the decision taken by the UCBSA "requires urgent and fundamental reconsideration" before the World Cup, which starts on February 8. It recommended that quotas be reinstated with increased "transformation targets". The report also said it was appropriate that government "play a leading role in the transformation of all spheres of society", which should include the setting up of a process to arrive at a national transformation charter for sport. Balfour said he backed the recommendations of the commission but said the government would not enforce them. "It's a recommendation, not an order," he said. Balfour said he did not believe "there is that big a gap between government and the UCBSA" and he would be happy to sit with the UCBSA and discuss the report. He did not believe the report or the row would adversely affect preparations for the World Cup. "When the World Cup opens the President and the cabinet will be there supporting the World Cup and supporting the South African team."

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