Should Mark Boucher step down from the position of South Africa's head coach in light of racial allegations?

Pressure is mounting on Mark Boucher for his resignation
Pressure is mounting on Mark Boucher for his resignation

The last few days have been filled with controversy in South African cricket, specifically involving head coach and former player Mark Boucher. Boucher apologized in public on Monday (August 23) for the alleged racial behavior he displayed during his playing days. The day after, assistant coach Enoch Nkwe stepped down from his position to “focus on personal growth and development.”

All this happened just before the South African team boarded a flight to Sri Lanka for their limited-overs tour, which has definitively impacted the team. The storm of the Social Justice & Nation-building (SJN) hearings, however, is just brewing up and this is considered to be just the initial impact that we are witnessing.

Racial issues are not something that could be prevented just by law. The practice takes years to correct when it is related to human mentality and behaviour. For a country that re-entered the arena of international cricket well before even the first democratic elections could be conducted after the apartheid era, it would have been hard to imagine the wrong-doings would be discontinued one fine morning. But that’s just what everyone assumed to have happened in the case of South Africa.

After almost three decades, the volcano that was smoking up has finally erupted and the lava is drowning some fine names along with it.

Mark Boucher's name has come up multiple times in the SJN hearings

Paul Adams made an accusation against Mark Boucher during the SJN hearings Paul Adams (L) and Mark Boucher during their playing days
Paul Adams made an accusation against Mark Boucher during the SJN hearings Paul Adams (L) and Mark Boucher during their playing days

Mark Boucher's name came up multiple times during the SJN hearings. But the most incriminating allegation was brought up by former wrist-spinner Paul Adams.

Adams alleged that Mark Boucher, among others, called him a “brown s***” during his playing days. He recounted how a group of white teammates would sing “brown s*** in the ring” during the team meetings.

“I was called brown s*** when I was playing. It often used to be a song when we won a game and we were in fines’ meetings. They would sing, ‘brown s*** in the ring, tra la la la laa'. When you are playing for your country, when you have had that victory, you don’t make sense of it, you brush it off, but it’s blatantly racist,” Paul Adams said during the SJN hearing.

The SJN hearings are a platform for people related to the game to open up about the racial abuse they have had to contend with, from both the institution and its people. It is bound to bring about occasional exaggerations and claims that are difficult to corroborate, but there are also genuine concerns that need to be urgently and systematically addressed.

Hence, when a set of allegations were put up against someone of the stature of Mark Boucher, the cricket fraternity and the general public were keen to see his response to it.

Mark Boucher issued a public apology for his alleged racial conduct

Paul Adams (L) and Mark Boucher during their playing days
Paul Adams (L) and Mark Boucher during their playing days

Mark Boucher promised full cooperation with the proceedings as soon as the allegations were made by the former players.

But the world came to a shock on Monday (August 23) when Boucher openly admitted to being a part of the group that called Paul Adams a “brown s***” in an affidavit submitted to the Ombudsman. He went on to apologize for his conduct in a public statement.

“Apologies for the part I played in joining in with my teammates in singing offensive songs or using offensive nicknames.”

Boucher went on to add that the players, including him, were naïve and were not equipped to deal with the “new environment” (of post-Apartheid racial inclusion).

“We were not only naive but were also ill-equipped to deal with the new environment in which we found ourselves. To my certain knowledge, there had not been any briefing or discussion by CSA as to how we deal with the legacy of Apartheid.”

Mark Boucher should step down from his position as the Head coach

Yes, the public apology was probably the primary measure that Mark Boucher could have taken at this point. However, the decision to carry on with the former wicketkeeper as South Africa's head coach has to come under scrutiny.

With a mixture of players from different races, it won’t be easy for the players to be conscious of the racial past of their head coach and go on like nothing the whole episode didn't take place.

Temba Bavuma, the first black African captain of the South African side, opened up before the tour to Sri Lanka that the SJN hearings have had an impact on the team.

“I'd be lying if I said it didn't have an impact on us as a team. It's publicly known that members of the team have been named in the testimonies.”

Although Boucher has also had discussions with the team explaining the allegations against him, it will be difficult to fathom the turmoil the players will be going through. Assistant coach Enoke Nkwe could just be the first person to step out of the current institutional setup. Though he has cited personal reasons, the discontenment with the Boucher controversy is out in the open.

It is entirely unfair on the players to have to undergo this situation during an overseas tour when they are already bound to be under the mental and physical pressures of the bio-bubble. Mark Boucher should step down from his position until there is complete clarity on the allegations which will come with the final report of the SJN Ombudsman.

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Edited by Anantaajith Raghuraman
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