People wanted to change rooms if they were roomed with me: Nolubabalo Ndzundzu at the SJN hearing

People wanted to change rooms if they were roomed with me: Nolubabalo Ndzundzu at the SJN hearing

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The first black woman to play for South Africa, Nolubabalo Ndzundzu, has spoken about the humiliation and discrimination she faced within the team during her international career. She testified at the Social Justice and National (SJN) Building commission hearing last week. The SJN commission was established by Cricket South Africa after Lungi Ngidi, the South Africa men’s pacer, called for support for the Black Lives Matter movement, which exposed the presence of racism in the Proteas cricket.

“When we went on tours, we would share rooms,” said Ndzundzu “But when the roomies were announced, people wanted to change rooms if they were roomed with me. At times, I was even told to move from my room to another room.”

“I remember the other day at dinner. One of the teammates loudly said, ’Nolu, just tell us, do you understand English…’ Eish, the whole table laughed before I could even answer. I knew she asked cos she knew the answer. I was so embarrassed, I couldn't even finish my food.”

Ndzundzu grew up in Masingata and had to travel to East London to train. She played a Test and 16 ODIs for South Africa, having made her debut in 2000. “Because of where I grew up, we didn’t speak English, and I used to be very embarrassed when I was asked to speak English,” she said.

“There was one day, we had to do team photo, and I was wearing long sleeves and we were supposed to wear short sleeves, but I didn’t understand what was said when they told us to wear the short sleeves because my English was bad. I was very, very embarrassed.”

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“I was told that speaking by isiXhosa, I was being rude to others, even though there were Afrikaans players and they spoke Afrikaans, even in team meetings if they didn’t understand what was being said in English.”

Ndzundzu became a police officer after she retired. She subsequently served as the selection convenor for the Border team.

“I feel that Cricket SA should apologise for the ignorance of not paying attention to me as a player and not caring for me about the fact that I was mistreated because of my race and because of my gender,” she said at the SJN hearing.

“Having been aware of my contribution and representation, they didn’t take any interest in discovering how my career was going and whether I was happy. It is very important for me to get the recognition because as a woman from the rural areas, it meant that I needed to be extra dedicated, work harder than the average person, and continued to be disciplined in the game for me to be the first black woman to represent South Africa at national and international level. As a result, I don’t feel it must be unrecognised that I made it into the team with all that I was faced with.”

“It was my love of cricket that saved me from committing suicide during those dark days in my playing career,” she concluded.

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