Charges against him bring into question his handling of the BLM campaign, his management of former assistant coach Nkwe, and his treatment of then team-mate Adams
Cricket South Africa will argue for Mark Boucher‘s dismissal in a disciplinary hearing which will take place in the next few months. Boucher was served with a seven-page charge sheet on Monday, which accused him of gross misconduct and bringing CSA into disrepute through historical and current handling of racial issues.
The most serious charges against Boucher relate to his role in singing the words “brown s***” to his then team-mate Paul Adams, which was revealed by Adams at the Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearings. Boucher admitted to singing the song, but said he did not compose the lyrics and in a written affidavit apologised for his conduct. He also said CSA did not appropriately educate players in the immediate post-Apartheid era. Boucher did not appear for oral testimony. CSA was not satisfied with Boucher’s response and the charge sheet claims he has conducted himself in “a racist or subliminally racist manner”.
“Having had your racist and/or offensive and/or inappropriate utterances drawn to your attention,” points 21.2 and 21.3 of the charge sheet say, “you failed to adequately and/or sufficiently and/or appropriately apologise for these utterances and/or acknowledge the racist nature of these utterances and/or the hurt that they caused; and/or … you have conducted yourself in a racist or subliminally racist manner by failing to acknowledge the impact of your conduct towards Mr Adams thereby exacerbating the offence of racism, bearing in mind your current position as the coach of the national team, which places you in a position of leadership and responsibility.”
Boucher has also been charged with improper conduct when dealing with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign in sport. According to the charge sheet, “when dealing with the BlackLivesMatter issue and the question of ‘taking the knee’, you allegedly dealt with the white players’ concerns and requested that the team manager (who is black) deal with the black players’ concerns. This allegedly created or exacerbated division and alienated players and the team.”
South Africa initially opted not to take a knee when the anti-racism movement resurged in sport in mid-2020 but U-turned on that at the 3TC event in July 2020 when all players and support staff took a knee. Boucher was not part of the tournament because he had Covid-19 at the time. The national team then also chose not to take a knee when they played England in November 2020 but raised fists against Sri Lanka in December that year. By the time they travelled to West Indies in June 2021, the players were given the option of taking a knee, raising a fist or standing to attention. Then, at the T20 World Cup in October last year, CSA mandated that the team must collectively take a knee before every game. They have since done that. The team have consistently said they are in agreement over their gestures – though Quinton de Kock refused to take a knee at first – and understand and respect each other’s positions, but CSA believes there has been some division.
Boucher is also accused of poor man management of his former assistant coach Enoch Nkwe, who resigned in August. Nkwe cited concerns with team culture and insiders confirmed he had a difficult working relationship with Boucher. The charge sheet claims Boucher did not provide clear “roles and responsibilities” or “meaningful key-performance indicators” for Nkwe, did not define his role or any development plans for him and, thus, “allegedly treated Mr Nkwe in a manner unbecoming of a leader in your position”.
In totality, this trio of accusations has brought CSA to the conclusion that Boucher’s “conduct has resulted in an irretrievable breakdown in the trust relationship between you and CSA”. “In the circumstances, the sanction of dismissal will be sought before the Chairperson of the disciplinary enquiry,” point 23 of the charge sheet reads.
Boucher, appointed in December 2019, is contracted until the 2023 World Cup. During his tenure, South Africa have won three of the five Test series they’ve played, including their most recent triumph over India, one out of five completed ODI series, and three out of eight T20 series. They also narrowly missed out on a semi-final spot at the T20 World Cup.
CSA and Boucher will meet next Wednesday to outline a timeframe for the disciplinary hearing. Several sources have told ESPNcricinfo that the hearing is unlikely to start before South Africa return from their two-Test tour of New Zealand at the end of February as Boucher’s legal team needs time with him to prepare their responses. As things stand, Boucher remains in his job and will continue working with the team, despite initial plans to suspend him.
CSA’s first communication on Boucher’s disciplinary hearing was titled “CSA suspends Boucher and Smith” but that was quickly retracted and replaced with the same statement headlined “CSA appoints highly respected advocate Terry Motau (SC) chairperson of disciplinary hearing into allegations against Mark Boucher”. CSA also apologised for the error.
ESPNcricinfo understands that CSA had done various scenario planning in the lead up to charging Boucher and was considering suspending both him and Smith and had designed a template to communicate this. After legal consultation, the organisation concluded there was no basis to suspend them and they will continue in their roles.
No disciplinary action has been instituted against Smith, who was also tentatively found to have engaged in prejudicial conduct but CSA is in the process of conducting arbitration agreements with him. That means Smith is unlikely to face a hearing in the same way Boucher will, but will still have to answer to the questions raised from the SJN report.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent