AB de Villiers has responded to the Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) report’s finding that he discriminated against Khaya Zondo “on racial grounds”.
The 235-page document was submitted to Cricket SA by ombudsman Adv Dumisa Ntsebeza and made available to the public on Wednesday.
In 2015, Zondo was part of the Proteas ODI squad that toured India. But when JP Duminy was ruled out of the final match of the series due to injury, Dean Elgar – who had been named in the Test squad – was flown in early to play in the ODI, with Zondo missing out.
In testimony given to the SJN, tour selector Hussein Manack said he was pressured into selecting Elgar over Zondo by De Villiers, the Proteas ODI captain.
De Villiers did not consult with selection convenor Linda Zondi, who was not on the tour, and instead discussed the matter with then CSA CEO Haroon Lorgat.
“Mr Zondo was a victim of the exclusionary culture which persists within the cricket ecosystem,” the SJN report said.
“Mr De Villiers was willing to flout the NSP [national selection policy] just to ensure that a black player was not placed in a position which he deemed as requiring greater experience.
“It is then puzzling that the preferred choice is a white player who does not specialise in the position that was open and had no experience in the ODI series, at the time.
“The only reasonable conclusion is that Mr De Villiers unfairly discriminated against Mr Zondo on racial grounds.
“His actions were arbitrary and irrational as there was no justifiable purpose for Mr Zondo’s replacement. His conduct was motivated by underlying unsubstantiated bias with respect to competence of black players.
“It appears that Mr De Villiers went to extreme lengths to ensure that a white player is secured participation in what he regarded as a critical game for the Proteas,” the report added.
“Racial discrimination continues to plague our society under the guise of merit justifications. Black people are denied opportunities because of unscrutinised misconceptions regarding their competence as compared to their white counterparts.
“Mr De Villiers’ conduct evidences this erroneous and baseless misconception of Mr Zondo as a black player.
“One may go as far as to state that he feared to place a person whom he viewed as incompetent, by virtue of the person being a black player, in what he regarded as a prized match.”
In response to the report’s findings, De Villiers tweeted on Wednesday: “I support the aims of CSA’s Social Justice and Nation Building process, to ensure equal opportunities in cricket.
“However, in my career, I expressed honest cricketing opinions only ever based on what I believed was best for the team, never based on anyone’s race. That’s the fact.”
De Villiers had previously told the SJN that he believed Zondo was a “non-playing” member of the squad, who was there purely to “gain experience” and “see how the system works”.
He said he believed Elgar and Farhaan Behardien were the next batsmen in line in the event of an injury.