South Africa’s former team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee has called on the national team to take a unified approach when expressing an on-field stance on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
Moosajee was speaking at the Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearings where he expressed his disappointment at the divided stance within the team on taking the knee.
The men’s national team have given its members the option of taking a knee, raising a fist or standing to attention before matches, Notably, all the players of colour, along with some white players, have opted for taking the knee, while others have selected alternative options. After a decade of culture camps aimed at cultivating inclusion, Moosajee expressed his disappointment that the team could not agree on a single gesture.
“Unfortunately, some current players appear to be misinformed and believe taking the knee is supporting the notion that black lives matter more,” he said. “They need to be educated so that they appreciate that taking the knee is all about a stand against racism and discrimination and supporting the notion that Black lives matter as much.
“It is a pity that the Proteas Team have not adopted a unified approach to the issue and highlights that even though we have been having discussions for a number of years already, these discussions need to continue, because we still have some way to go to get all our people to fully appreciate the injustices of the past. I would like to see a recommendation from the Ombudsman [Dumisa Ntsebeza] urging the Proteas to adopt a unified approach.”
Moosajee was involved with the national team in various roles for 16 years until 2019, first as the doctor and then combining it with the role of team manager.
“In 2010, Graeme Smith and I believed that it was necessary to build an inclusive team culture and for members of the squad to have a greater appreciation of people from different backgrounds, races and religions,” Moosajee said.
“In my view, the targets or quotas gave opportunities to people of colour and many of them proved that they could be world-class performers on the international stage”
Dr Mohammed Moosajee
“The objective of building the team culture was to build an authentic, diverse and inclusive sense of identity, with due regard to our fractured past and history. I believed that it was important for the team to talk about race, class and culture, but I was also conscious of the fact that building a team culture would not happen overnight. It required unwavering commitment, strong leadership and continuous reinforcement.”
The three-day camp was formed with information gathered from Sporting Edge and Hoko – team culture companies who assisted the New Zealand rugby team – and included expert advice from Ahmed Kathrada, a contemporary of Nelson Mandela. These specialists ran two surveys, including one with members of the public who said they believed the national rugby team, the Springboks, were better ambassadors for the country than the cricket side.
Moosajee admitted to being surprised at the survey results, “because at the time even though the Proteas had not won a World Cup, they were the top-ranked Test-playing nation and had more black players (on a percentage basis) than the Springboks.”
The outcome of the camp was a four-minute video, which was played at SJN but never released publicly. It featured Smith at the Wanderers, interspersed with a Mandela speech, an interview with rugby world-cup winning captain John Smit, and fans of all races reminding the team: “you represent me.”
According to Moosajee, the camp was successful in starting “the journey to get the team more united and in my view had positive outcomes.” Among those were that more players of colour started to be selected for the national side, although Moosajee acknowledged, “the camp was not the sole reason for this.” He credited “more diverse franchise and provincial teams, diversity amongst coaches and administrators in the affiliate members of CSA” and “targets/quotas,” as also playing a role.
But he criticised the quota system for having the “unintended consequences,” of relying on elite schools to produce players and leaving underprivileged areas in a state of neglect while also creating a comfort zone for players. “Certain players, who had become “undroppable”, because their inclusion in a team is necessary to meet the quotas / targets. A few of these players allowed their fitness levels to wane and were guilty of disciplinary misdemeanours, but these misdemeanours went unpunished, because there were concerns that the quotas / targets would not be met.”
Moosajee maintained that unconscious bias and ingrained prejudice continues to contribute to divides in South African cricket in all sectors. “Some white players and administrators still need to appreciate the value of diversity, the need to level the playing fields and to break down barriers and some black players and administrators also need to recognise that they have contributed to further divisions in our societies and need to be more inclusive and recognise that good people from all our communities are prepared to be sacrificial leaders and contribute to the desperately needed transformation agenda. A fully transformed and successful team will attract sponsors, contribute to more nations wanting to play series against us and increase earnings through broadcast revenue.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent