Hannes Wessels

I was still a schoolboy when I read Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ about the Salem Witch Trials that unfolded in Massachusetts in the late 17th century. I found it terribly disturbing that someone unelected, unqualified and unaccountable could, on a whim point a finger, and that individual’s life was instantly destroyed. Once the accusation was made, there was little or no chance of redemption. But then I reminded myself, humanity had moved on, people had learned from their mistakes, and our world had become a more orderly and empathetic one, with legal systems in place to protect the innocent. How utterly wrong I was.

In Miller’s play Abigail was the terrifying finger-pointer; in the case of Zimbabwe born, former England opening bat Gary Ballance, it is Azeem Rafiq, a Yorkshire team-mate who has accused his once close friend of racism because he called him a ‘Paki’. This has triggered a media and political firestorm in the UK and beyond, with Ballance excoriated, vilified and condemned in the court of woke opinion. His reputation has been wrecked, his future career hangs precariously in the face of attacks from politicians, journalists and cricket administrators calling for swift punishment to be meted out; and some are suggesting Ballance be compelled to receive help with his mental health. Sponsors are cutting ties with the club, Grant Shapps the Transport Secretary has called the allegations ‘very serious’; and Health Secretary Sajid Javid has insisted ‘heads must roll’ while accusing Yorkshire Cricket of trying to conceal their ‘crimes’ following an official internal inquiry which concluded the word had been used in the course of acceptable banter between two good friends. In the course of the investigation it was disclosed Rafiq routinely mocked Ballance with ‘Zimbo’,but using an insulting diminutive of a white person’s country of birth is deemed acceptable and non-racist in today’s cancel culture.

I have known the Ballance family virtually all my life. Gary’s grandfather Hugh, also a fine sportsman, finished school in Bulawayo and immediately joined the rush of young Rhodesians who volunteered from afar to fight for Britain in WWII. Such was the overwhelming response to join up that some applicants were denied enlistment for fear the colony would collapse due to the exit of too many able-bodied males. Selected for the air force, he entered the Empire Air Training Scheme which had been set up in Rhodesia to provide safe airfields with good weather to train pilots.

Having won his wings he joined 266 Rhodesian Squadron and flew combat operations in the Western Desert, Italy and later over France. He won the Distinguished Flying Cross. His citation reads: ‘This officer has completed many sorties on his second tour of operational duty, involving successful attacks on the enemy’s railway installations, mechanical transport, airfields and radar targets. He has displayed commendable skill and courage and throughout his devotion to duty has been unfailing.’

After the war Hugh returned to Rhodesia with medals but no money and rode around the Eastern Districts on a bicycle looking for work. He was taken on by Gerald Timms as a farm manger in the Inyazura (now Nyazura) farming area near the town of Umtali.

Gerald had been a soldier in one of the first combat tank regiments deployed in WW1 and married a nurse he met during the hostilities before emigrating to Southern Rhodesia at the end of the war to go farming. Cricket already ran rich in the Timms family veins. His brother John ‘Jack’ Timms, an all-rounder, played for Northamptonshire as an amateur and professional and played in a Test Trial in 1932. Many felt, but for the Second World War, he would have played for England.

Having saved enough, Hugh bought a farm from Gerald, married his daughter Daphne and started growing tobacco. Simon, Gary’s father is the youngest of six children (four boys and two girls), all of whom were gifted sportsmen and women. Richard, the oldest, was a Nuffield (Rhodesia Schools) player in 1967.

Following Ian Smith’s declaration of UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) in 1965 and the imposition of economic sanctions farmers throughout the country struggled with fuel rationing and the newly enforced block on trade. Never Ian Smith supporters, Hugh and Daphne were highly respected within the community and hugely popular with the local Africans for their work in building clinics and schools and attending to the welfare of their employees.

 With the intensification of the ‘Bush War’ in 1975 their security situation deteriorated drastically. During this time Hugh and the Ballance boys were mobilised for military duty. With Hugh absent much of the time, a manager was needed to help run the farm and look after the women and children, but he was killed in 1979 in an enemy ambush riding to work on his motorbike. Romantically involved with Gary’s aunt Sally, Ken Hogg’s death was a blow to the family and the district community. This killing came only months after the murder of the Ballance neighbours, the Eksteens, and close family friend Rose Hacking. Despite adversity, weekend club cricket in Rusape and Umtali continued to thrive and it was out of this community that the Currans grew their game.

After the end of the war in 1980 Hugh and Daphne moved to Umtali (now Mutare) and brothers Tim and Gerald took over the family estate while Simon and his wife moved to nearby ‘Leigh-Farm’ a year after Gary was born in 1989.  Bruce and Dylan were born after Gary and all were schooled at Springvale near the farming town of Marondera.  At home, cricket with the children of the farm-workers became a favourite pastime. On all the Ballance farms, schools, clinics and sports facilities were built for the labour.

The Mugabe-ordered ‘land-invasions’ commenced in 2000 and white farmers throughout the country were forcibly displaced. Tim and Simon weathered the storm until the end of 2003 when they were forced to abandon their homes and lose their livelihoods. ‘Leigh-Farm’ was taken by a politically connected religious sect and has been completely destroyed.

After Springvale Gary went to Peterhouse and then Harrow for his last two school-years thanks to the help of his ‘Uncle’, former Zimbabwe cricket captain Dave Houghton. At the time he showed more promise as a leg-spinner and was picked for the Zimbabwe Under 19’s.  Zimbabwe cricket was in normal turmoil with political selections rife, so Gary chose the calmer waters of Yorkshire.

Unlike Rafiq, this man has borne the brutal brunt of real racism for much of his life. He was only 14 when he had to come to terms with losing his home and the life he loved because he was the son of a white farmer; his family had been ethnically cleansed in the purest sense of the term. Had they been Muslim or black there would have been international outrage, but they were white Christians, so most of the world cheered.

He had to leave his country of birth because talent was no guarantor of selection. The Zimbabwe Cricket Union was manifestly corrupt and eschewed merit in favour of race as a primary selection criterion. This misgovernance of the game in the country was allowed to continue because of tacit support from Pakistan among other cricketing nations.

 Despite all this, he, like most Zimbabweans,  has tried to bury the past and bear no grudges. He thought his accuser was a true friend with whom he could exchange banter during tough cricket moments. When his friend developed the ‘yips’ and lost confidence, Gary was the first to recommend a trip to Zimbabwe for intensive coaching. The Ballance family met Rafiq at the airport to welcome him into the country and the family cottage and vehicle were put at his disposal for the duration of his stay. He regained confidence and returned to the first team. When his bowling subsequently declined, Gary who was now captain, was obliged to drop him. Rafiq immediately cried foul, declaring racism and filed for damages.

In the broader sense this leaves one wondering how this will affect the great game; will selectors henceforth be reluctant to drop people of colour for fear of similar responses. Will team-mates desist from making close, trusting friendships across the colour divide for fear of subsequently being accused as racists; and if so, will they be condemned as racists anyway? 

 Like the rest of the Ballance family, Gary is a good and kind man, who loves people and loves to laugh. He epitomises so many of the qualities that were once quintessentially British but are now abandoned. The fact that he is now condemned by England’s politicians and media, attracting the opprobrium of millions of his countrymen, says more about them than it does about him.

Hugh Balance must be rolling in his grave wondering why he risked his all to save England from one brand of fascism, only to be replaced by another.

35 thoughts on “Gary Ballance: A Victim Vilified.”
  1. This article has stoked an array of strong emotions from several readers. I watched the proceedings from today’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee who were listening to evidence from Mr. Rafiq, YCCC Representatives and the ECB. Quite remarkable how the politicians on the panel were putting words in the mouths of those giving testimony (who, incidentally, fell for it). This was a finger pointing extravaganza of epic proportions and smacked of hypocrisy, sinister agendas, and failed policy measures, not least from the committee members themselves who are supposed to be societal pillars of ‘freedom and liberty’. Talk is cheap. One thing stands out – Michael Vaughan is vehemently denying the allegation levelled against him by Mr. Rafiq. Who are we to believe? They cannot both be right and it brings into question the validity and accuracy of the complaints brought into the public domain by Mr. Rafiq. I also highlight the question Mr. Wessels poses: “Why, may I ask did Mr. Rafiq, remain silent so long?” Witch-hunts always end in tears. I cannot help but be reminded of poor old Harold Larwood who was sanctioned by ‘The Lords’ (ECB) after the highly controversial ‘Bodyline’ series in Australia (1932-33). It bears remembering that Larwood, almost singlehandedly managed to neutralise the Aussie (sorry, Australian) sensation, Don Bradman from destroying English Cricket, almost irreparably. Whilst Larwood was bowling his ‘leg theory’ and winning matches for England, The Lords were beaming on the other side of the pond, contemptuous of their ‘down under’ opponents. All that changed of course when the politicians got involved – Larwood was rapped on the knuckles by the ECB and ordered to apologise to the Australian Cricket Board. He refused, rightly pointing out that he had “just done what Skipper instructed” (Douglas Jardine). Larwood was thrown to the wolves, never got chosen to play for England again, and eventually emigrated to Australia, ironically with the help of Jack Fingleton who had borne the brunt of Larwood’s battering during the Bodyline series. What is the old adage? keep your friends close, but your enemies closer…Gary Ballance might just reflect that although history doesn’t repeat itself, it sure does rhyme.
    Greetings to John Cowper – I saw that you had left a comment.

    1. So interesting; thanks Shane. I know the English justice system is now skewed but how I wish Gary would fight back, stop apologising, and take this to court. None of these poor people who get ‘fingered’ seem to learn that groveling does not help; it only makes the mob madder.

      1. Thanks Ed and Shane. By not refuting, Gary Ballance has too easily given away his own wicket, and it maybe too late for review!

        1. I fear you are right Rob and that’s a great pity. With nobody making a stand this is spreading fast and doing incalculable damage.

    2. Thank you for your balanced and measured reply. It is good to have this kind of level-headed response in this volatile world we live in today.

  2. Thanks Hannes , for this platform. Wish you were still here. Life would be simpler if the rules could be that the only categories we were allowed to use to define eachother were “GOOD ” and ” BAD “. In Zimbabwe, we know only too well how the race card has been used by politicians. My friend and neighbour is originally from South India. Our relationship is such that there is no need for banter. Why banter ? It only draws attention to differences which in a genuine mature relationship need not be emphasised. Unconscious racial banter is inappropriate and very rarely humorous.

  3. Ballance is not a victim he is the perpetrator of a vile racial insult against a fellow player. He has been living in the UK for about 15 years and if he doesn’t know that the word Paki is a racially motivated insult then he must be stupidest man in the UK. The term Paki started to be used as an insult by Oswald Moseley and his British Union of Fascists in the late 1950’s when he used to parade with his mindless thugs through the East End of London calling for ‘Paki’s out’ and insulting the Jewish community as well for good measure. Yorkshire County Cricket Club is based in Leeds and, outside of London, the Leeds/Bradford conurbation has the highest concentration of people of south Asian heritage living there. So it beggars belief that Ballance was unaware of the implications of using the term against a colleague. But as usual you have missed the point by trying to defend the indefenceable before knowing the facts.The real issue is this. Under UK employment law employers have a duty of care towards their employees.. This includes protecting them from harassment or discrimination on the grounds of their ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. The racially motivated conduct of Ballance and others was repeatedly brought to the attention of the club who simply dismissed it as locker room banter and took no action to protect the employee thus putting them in breech of the law. Mr Rafiq brought a case against the club which the club has settled. If YCCC were innocent why did they settle? Under UK employment law they had the opportunity to go to an independent employment tribunal and put their case so ask yourself why not. This has nothing to do with woke culture it is about an employer failing in its duty towards employees. Ballance is just the lightening rod in this sorry episode and has ruined his career and reputation on account of his own stupidity.
    Sadly British sport is plagued with racism. Black sportsmen and women are subject to racially motivated insults every time they play for their club or country. Taking the knee is one way of calling attention to this and has nothing to do with woke culture.The club and the sports field are their places of employment. Would you be happy to go into your workplace and be subjected to racial harassment on a daily basis.
    Before rushing to put pen to paper always check your facts, it saves you making a fool of yourself.

    1. Why, may I ask did Mr. Rafiq, remain silent so long? If he was so offended why did he not confront Ballance at the time and report the matter the first time the word was used? Why wait years, enjoy a friendship and the hospitality offered by the offender, then come out crying when his career enters the twilight zone?

    2. Just watched a bit of Ridley Road while flicking through the Channels. Typical woke, Libtard Bolshevik BBC🚽BS about a lefty infiltrating the “far right” in post war London…..haven’t the BBC🚽BS and their ilk worked out that the Left are the racist, anti semitic National Socialists of today?????¿ One only has to look at Fake mainstream media, the Labor Party, BLM, Antifa and the Democrats in USA to figure that out…….you don’t have to be a genius to work that out!!!!

    3. You have completely ignored the sentiment of the article, you idiot.
      Nobody is doubting the fact that racist remarks were made at YCCC.
      What the author is suggesting is that Mr Ballance was also the victim of racial abuse, which has gone unpunished!!

  4. Ballance is dumb at best and a racist at worst. He is not a victim. He has had privilege and opportunity. Paki is a derogatory expression, coined and used by the English to denigrate Pakistani immigrants. Everyone knows that. Zimbo is not perjorative. We also all know that. It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

    1. Or maybe Gary should’ve called Rafiq a SNOWFLAKE❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️
      Poor chappie obviously needs a safe space to hide away in.
      Gary has probably had a fatwa issued on him. That’s how the Pukies operate…..


  6. Well written Hannes… One can only hope that this blog sees a little more wider publicity… this woke furor and double speak we suffer has no bounds… the sooner the fearful, timid, timorous, Brits collapse up there own backsides and right thinking people clear the cob webs, the better. Pakistan is a nation, not a race!

  7. The article is flawed. Maybe the author lacks understanding or is too afraid to speak the truth. I enjoy Hannes book.
    The last paragraph caught my attention, risked all to to save England from one brand of fascism. Rhodesia (and South Africa) fought for England in WWII then England took Rhodesia down (along with SA). Gary dropped Rafiq? because his bowling skills slipped. So much for friendship.
    England and communists took Rhodesia down. The White race is under attack. White England is under attack. Rafiq’s complaint was used to attack ‘Whitey’. Whitey needs to wake up.
    If Rhodesia and SA had fought for Germany they might be better off today. They fought for England in WWII then England stabbed them in the back.
    I have a question. Why were Hugh and Daphne not supporters of Ian Smith? When Smith needed all support possible?

  8. Well done Hannes …… spot on. I am passing this on to as many people as possible. Pie

  9. It was Simon Kerr, not Garthwaite, that was murdered. Represented Gloucestershire seconds. Got drunk at a nurses party. Stabbed to death by Desmond Carroll. No motive given.

  10. He is a paki …..and u can’t change that …. Just like I am a white and an af is an af

  11. Thank you as always for this article exposing the ‘woke’ population of pontificating social media jurists stalking our every keystroke. The righteous indignation displayed by people that have less of a clue about life than a crushed tick never fails to amaze me as they issue their judgements from their comfortable armchairs, with no fear of actual accountability or responsibility for their hate-speech and bullying. All I can hope for is that one day these people will either get and education or will fall victim to their own cancel culture vultures.
    Thank you for allowing my opinion and all the best to you, Sir.

  12. Does anyone remember Simon Garthwaite, a Rhodesian who played county Cricket in England in early 70s. He was murdered in England during the course of his playing cricket. I remember reading the story in the Rhodesian Herald circa 1973ish. I worked with his sister, Sue at Clem Tholets advertising agency in 1975.
    I don’t know the reason for his murder but was probably something to do with him being a Rhodesian…he was beaten to death.

  13. Hannes you have the nail on the head….simply label someone a racist and sit back and watch them try to defend themselves
    whilst no one dares challenge the accuser !

    Unfortunately there is no one here willing to step up and ask the hard questions of Rafiq …

    Did you engage in the banter and if you did why do you cry foul now?

    Did you ask Ballance to stop using that term?

    If other team members heard the two of you in this friendly banter does that not tell everyone you accepted it.

    He has now accepted a financial settlement…so its all OK if money is the remedy!


  14. So well written. What has this world come to? Particularly that snowflake ridden island of mud and woosies. I shut my weary eyes!

  15. Really good article Hannes – send to Taki – I can’t see The Spectator risking printing it though several of the writers will have sympathy

    1. That’s a good idea… Taki’s Mag would give this column a lot more reach. And they do occasionally pick up independent bloggers (the Z Man is lately writing the Monday column).

  16. Once again -amazing isn’t it? We are Brits, Australians are Aussies, Germans are Gerries, Italians are Ities and Japanese are Japs. Simple abbreviations normal people use, but oh no not thin skinned, grievance- seeking Pakistanis. Truly pathetic as always. Still I suppose some good will come of it, namely that no-one will recruit them in future. Well done, idiot!

Comments are closed.