Gumede putts against racism

2017-05-07 06:01
Jabulani Mabilane.

Jabulani Mabilane.

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Mbombela - Business tycoon Robert Gumede has withdrawn his R1.2m sponsorship from a luxurious golf club in Mpumalanga in protest against the apparent slap on the wrist it gave four white men who assaulted a black teenage golfer in October last year.

Gumede withdrew his funding of the Nelspruit Golf Club’s Jock of the Bushveld Tournament, citing its failure to act firmly against racism.

The weeklong tournament, which starts on Sunday and ends next Sunday, marks its 50th anniversary this year. Gumede demanded that his name be removed from the golf club’s second nine, which was named after him.

Relocated

Jabulani Mabilane (19), a former member of the Nelspruit Golf Club, who was its sole professional golfer, was practising last October when four white club members – Lodgewyk de Clercq, Stephanus Noppe, Jasper Vorster and Rocky Smith – allegedly told him that he was not welcome at the golf course.

They then allegedly punched and kicked Mabilane, injuring his right eye. The club commissioned an inquiry that recommended an 18-month suspension for the five golfers – including Mabilane.

Mabilane was cleared of wrongdoing after lodging an appeal, but he has since relocated to Johannesburg to advance his golfing career. The assault case he laid with the police six months ago has stagnated.

Gumede is also displeased by the police’s failure to make progress in the assault case opened by Mabilane following the incident.

In his youth, Gumede made a living as a caddy at the club and became its benefactor when he became a billionaire. He and Mabilane’s father, Ezra, have known each other since they were young.

“I have sponsored local white golf professionals from the club because I am not a racist. This [what happened to Mabilane] is not acceptable,” Gumede said, adding that the club should have acted more firmly against the four accused.

“The club decided to suspend a young golfer together with the perpetrators of violence against him through a kangaroo court. The police have done nothing since the young man laid a charge. I believe it is time that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate investigate the Nelspruit police,” he said.

Independent attorney

Gumede said that he was gutted to hear from Mabilane and his father that a senior official of the golf club was putting pressure on them to withdraw the criminal charges and their complaint at the club. In exchange, it undertook to get billionaire Johann Rupert to sponsor the young player’s career.

“The golf club leases land from the Mbombela council and I wonder where the municipality stands on this matter. How can, after 27 years since Mandela’s release from prison, we have a young golfer assaulted by four grown-up white guys and nothing happens to the perpetrators … instead, the victim is penalised?”

“I informed the club that I will no longer associate myself with such a place,” said Gumede.

The Nelspruit Golf Club has 400 members, but only seven of them are black. They have since decided to quit.

Club captain Zulu Cason said that he could not comment because the inquiry was chaired by an independent attorney. “You are asking the wrong person,” Cason said.

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathi said that the docket was still with the National Prosecuting Authority for a decision. He denied that police were reluctant to investigate the case.

“We’re waiting for guidance from the Director of Public Prosecutions,” Hlathi said.

Mabilane said that the police last contacted him two weeks after he had laid the charges. He said he would return to the club on condition that justice was done – particularly by the police.

“I could not stay without practising [after being suspended for 18 months], so I moved to Johannesburg. When I was told I won on appeal, I decided not to go back because I felt uncomfortable being there.”

Read more on:    robert gumede  |  mbombela  |  crime

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