Minister speaks out on alleged racist rugby assault

2011-08-08 14:19

An alleged racial incident between the Edenvale Panthers and the Soweto Rugby Club (SRC) should not be allowed to damage the image of rugby in South Africa, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has said.

“We are not going to allow a tiny, yet small-minded group of individuals to tarnish the image of rugby in the country,” he said.

Half a dozen SRC players were injured in an attack, allegedly by Panthers players and spectators, towards the end of their President’s League game in Edenvale on Saturday.

SRC secretary Zola Ntlokoma told The New Age newspaper that one of the team’s coaches and the bus driver were also attacked.

“After the fight had subsided, a player from the Edenvale Panthers said ‘leave our town you k*****s’,” Ntlokoma told the newspaper.

Panthers club president Victor de Klerk alleged that SRC players racially abused his team before the violence broke out.

A charge of assault had been laid and was being investigated, and Edenvale police station spokesperson confirmed.

Mbalula said everyone involved should be ashamed.

“They should wake up and look at the mirror and ask themselves: ’Am I still a human being?’” he said.

“If claims are true that hate language, racial and physical engagement became the order of the day, harsh actions must be taken against those involved.

“As the ministry, we would want to get answers from the SA Rugby Union,” said Mbalula.

Golden Lions Rugby Union (GLRU) club manager Pieter Visser said he could not sleep after hearing what had happened and emailed everyone involved at 4am yesterday morning.

“There are always two or three sides to a story, so I have requested statements from the two linesmen, the referee, both clubs and anybody who may have seen what happened,” he said.

The GLRU would not tolerate racism or abuse, he said.

By Wednesday, he hoped to have compiled a complete report for the GLRU’s disciplinary committee.

If necessary, it would then meet with the union’s racism committee to discuss possible action against those involved.

Visser said similar incidents had occurred in Gauteng in recent years, but they were isolated.

“I wouldn’t be able to put a total on the number of times this sort of thing has happened, or how often it might occur, but it has happened here and there in the past,” he said.

In August 2008, a black female spectator, Ziningi Shibambo, said three men hurled racial insults at her during a Tri-Nations match between the Springboks and Australia at Ellis Park, the home of the Lions provincial team.

A number of racial incidents have occurred at other unions as well, particularly in the Boland region.

In August 2003, a Mossel Bay player was stabbed, his captain was hit in the face with a brick, and the team’s manager was assaulted by angry Groot Brakrivier supporters.

In September 2004, the president of the Kuils Rivier rugby club, Eddie Gurah, was suspended for life after repeatedly hitting and kicking Hamiltons player Angus McKenzie.

Later the same month, a player from the Delicious club in Ceres, Charlie Manuel, was also suspended for life after hitting Rawsonville assistant coach Andre Carstens so hard that his eardrum burst.

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