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This article is taken from the July 2000 Phatlalatsa newsletter

 

I’m no lawyer (thank God)

I am no lawyer - who admits to being one nowadays? - but surely we all have the right to watch and/or hear the cross-examination of Hansie Cronje as he answers the numerous questions that his second - or is it third? - confession has raised. Judge King had sought to dredge up some case from Canada to substantiate the decision not to allow for public broadcast of the cross-examination. Rather than looking for precedents elsewhere, we should be setting one here ourselves! Thankfully, wisdom prevailed and we could all gaze at Hansie, Advocate Bitohi, or rows upon rows of grey men in grey suits - depending on your preference.

The TRC has partly revealed the levels of deception that marked our past. Our present society is based on a constitution that is the envy of many developed countries. The right to information is an important part of our constitution. So too, is the right to be innocent before proven guilty. Don’t get me wrong - I don’t believe Hansie should be publicly hanged immediately (although my drinking buddy, Bantu, holds firmly to this belief). But surely we can make our own minds up by watching and listening to the man, seeing his facial movements and body language as he answers questions. Why was this even an issue for the learned Judge? It was difficult to brush aside the widely held belief that the UCB wants to pin everything on Hansie and clear everyone else, and more secrecy would help.

Putting aside the argument that Hansie was an important ambassador for our country and ultimately accountable to the country, what I cannot understand is how the confession of someone like Hansie can be broadcast, but the cross-examination cannot. As I said, I am no lawyer…

Mad or just sports mad?

I have argued elsewhere that the South African public is sports mad. And this, despite the fact that the concept of transparency does not seem to permeate any of the major sporting codes. Maybe yet another legacy from the apartheid days is our preoccupation with conspiracy theories! Face value has very little meaning here.

And yet I believe that openness is exactly what the South African public needs when confronted with sport and information about sport. The administrators prefer to run their affairs like the private sector where decisions and deals are made in smoke-filled rooms, forgetting that we - fans and supporters - are the real power behind any sport. It would not take long for television to turn away from sponsorship if the backdrop to the event were rows and rows of empty seats.

We need to inculcate a climate of transparency - and that means information-sharing and dialogue. Decisions and deals must be open to public scrutiny (especially when they are crooked!). From cricket to rugby to soccer, we need to move away from control by the cabal or lager (the closed circle, not the beer!). The government undoubtedly has a role in creating this climate and in monitoring the performance and conduct of the various sporting codes and their respective personnel.

 

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