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September 17, 2001

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Cronje gains support ahead of hearing

Fakir Hassen

Disgraced former South African captain Hansie Cronje seems to be gaining public support as his appeal against a lifetime ban for his involvement in match-fixing in the high court in Pretoria approaches.

Cronje, who has become a popular motivational speaker at fund-raising events, was in action again at a function near Pretoria in aid of the Springbok Players' Benefit Trust.

Guests, who paid up to 400 rands per head for the dinner, cheered when Cronje's name was announced. He got a standing ovation from most of the house when he finished. People clamoured for his autographs at the end of the session.

Cronje made only a passing reference to his role in match-fixing that led to an international cricketing scandal and action by the International Cricket Council and the United Cricket Board of South Africa.

"I've realised in my life that I've made some horrendous decisions and big mistakes. But I also know that it is up to the individual to get up, move on, and learn from your mistakes," he said. Cronje did not comment on the high court hearing from September 26 to 28.

Early last year, Delhi Police first made public conversations between Cronje and an Indian bookmaker in which he agreed to lose a match at Nagpur, India during a series.

Cronje initially denied the charges with the support of the UCBSA. He later admitted to them and other deals with bookmakers in India and South Africa.

This led to the South African government establishing the King Commission of inquiry into cricket match-fixing and other irregularities.

The commission was shut down earlier this year in a cloud of controversy as Cronje's legal team questioned its constitutionality, but not before two interim reports that resulted in the UCBSA banning Cronje from anything to do with the sport for life.

Cronje has appealed this decision in the high court, claiming it was effectively denying him a source of livelihood from the only thing he knows -- cricket. He wanted to work as a commentator or coach, but cannot do so after the UCBSA reports.

Meanwhile, two of South Africa's popular broadcasting personalities are in another legal spat over their actions and comments in the Cronje saga.

Darren Scott, presenter on the national television channel M-Net, is suing radio announcer Martin Gillingham of Cape Talk for 50,000 rands.

Gillingham allegedly told his listeners that Scott was not fit to be a presenter because of his association with Cronje.

Gillingham said this was in reaction to widespread reports in July that Scott had deposited 100,000 rands into Cronje's banking accounts that were being investigated. English journalist Neil Manthorp reported the allegations.

Scott said the allegations had tarnished his reputation and that the payment was made to Cronje for work done on a radio show that Scott was involved in. He has promised to sue Manthorp as well.

A spokesperson for Cape Talk said the action by Scott would be defended.

Indo-Asian News Service