Safa’s ‘conspiracy of silence’

2014-11-23 17:00

An Algerian match official scheduled to referee the Bafana Bafana-Sudan Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Durban last weekend was arrested on the morning of the game for allegedly attempting to rape a hotel cleaner.

Top brass of the SA Football Association (Safa), who were aware of the sex attack, substituted the official – whose name is known to City Press.

Then South African match official Lalelani Mngadi was called in to take over as fourth official for the game, which Bafana won 2-1, sealing a place in the competition’s finals in Equatorial Guinea in January.

The 33-year-old man was arrested at Durban’s plush Suncoast Towers after allegedly attempting to rape the young woman.

It is alleged that earlier he unsuccessfully propositioned the same woman with an offer of “lots” of money and, when she refused, he grabbed her breasts and became aggressive when she continued to resist.

But the football governing body has been silent for a week about the alleged attack, which was foiled when the victim screamed for help. She was rescued by a colleague working on the same floor.

The match official, who attempted to leave the hotel for the nearby Moses Mabhida Stadium after the attack, was detained by hotel security.

The two terrified cleaners had forced their way out of the official’s room and ran downstairs to call security guards, who responded to their calls for help.

The official was then held in the Durban Central police station cells until his bail was paid by officials from the Algerian embassy.

A Safa official, who asked not to be named as he is not authorised to talk to the media, told City Press: “The Safa leadership were all in a tizz and trying to work out a plan to use the fourth official and replace him with a South African one.”

“Things were really tense. Everything was focused on making sure the game went ahead,” he added.

The official was unhappy about Safa’s silence.

“It makes me very uncomfortable that there has been no publicity around this. Nobody is talking about what happened. It’s wrong,” he said.

A hotel spokesperson confirmed the incident, saying the hotel had called the police, who arrested the man and took him away for questioning.

The spokesperson declined to comment on whether the employee was injured or whether she was receiving counselling.

Safa spokesperson Dominic Chimhavi confirmed the official was arrested. Chimhavi said the man was “not the responsibility” of Safa but of the Algerian embassy, into whose custody he had been released.

He defended Safa’s silence about the attack, saying the body had been quiet about it because “once a criminal act takes place, it is not our responsibility”.

“We have nothing to do with this. We cannot comment on this issue as the matter is now in the hands of the law enforcement agencies. Let the law take its course.

“We have nothing to say. What should we have done? You can’t comment on something that hasn’t been tested. There is nothing wrong with us keeping quiet.”

Attempts to secure comment from the Algerian embassy were unsuccessful.

Gender activist Colleen Lowe Morna said she was concerned about the silence around the attack, particularly from Safa.

“Sport can play a massively positive role in shaping people’s attitudes. The very least one expected from Safa was a statement to inform the world about what had happened and to allow the judicial process to play itself out, rather than engaging in what amounts to a conspiracy of silence,” she said.

“Football in particular has taken a very strong and correct stand about racism. What is this saying about football’s attitude towards sexism and sexual violence?”

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