Eben Etzebeth breaks silence over alleged racist assault, claims 'biased' SAHRC has 'hidden agenda'

Eben Etzebeth and Springbok captain Siya Kolisi following the Boks' victory over Canada.
Eben Etzebeth and Springbok captain Siya Kolisi following the Boks' victory over Canada.
Getty Images

Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth has filed strongly worded court papers in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, saying the case the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) brought against him in the Equality Court is "unlawful".

On Tuesday, Die Burger reported on the content of the court papers, filed on Monday, in which he asked for the case to be set aside. 

The SAHRC is representing the so-called Langebaan Four in an Equality Court case against Etzebeth, whom they say alleged used a racial slur against them during an incident at a pub.

The four are looking for compensation of more than R1m and want Etzebeth to apologise, to undergo anger management and racial sensitivity training, and to do community service, News24 reported. 

But Etzebeth has reportedly criticised the SAHRC in his court papers, stating that he was given the assurance at a meeting with the SAHRC on August 29 that the case would be investigated, that he would be furnished with the particulars of the case against him and that he would be given the opportunity to respond on his return from the Rugby World Cup campaign in Japan.

According to Die Burger, Etzebeth said this did not happen. Instead, the SAHRC halted its own inquiry, brought a case against him in the Equality Court and launched an aggressive media campaign against him, Etzebeth says in his affidavit. 

'Hidden agenda'

The rugby player reportedly accused the SAHRC of being biased and irrational, and of having a "hidden agenda".

In his court papers he says he believes the SAHRC folded under "political pressure" and was not "brave enough" to drop the investigation against him, instead taking the case to the Equality Court so that it would not have to make an "unpopular" finding.

READ | Nothing untoward about SAHRC representing Langebaan Four in Etzebeth case – Western Cape commissioner

The complainants allege they had been walking home from a local pub called the 5 O'Clock Sports Bar in Langebaan on August 25. On their way, they passed local hangout Die Watergat as Etzebeth and his friends were leaving.

According to them, the rugby player asked the group: "Wat soek julle h*tn*tte so laat op straat?"

A verbal exchange between the two groups ensued and Etzebeth and his party apparently got into their vehicles to leave.

A brick or similar object was then thrown at his white Mustang and Etzebeth and his friends allegedly got out of their cars.

According to the complainants' lawyer, Nigel Samuels, the group saw that Etzebeth had a firearm and fled.

"They caught Enver Wilsnach, who had been walking two women home, and hit him with the gun. Shiyaad Smith tried to intervene and he too was assaulted," Samuels claimed.

Denied wrongdoing

The SAHRC confirmed meeting with Etzebeth who was included in South Africa's 31-man squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

"The purpose of the meeting was to advise the player of the role the SAHRC takes in relation to a complaint received, as well as the subsequent media reports relating to it, and to establish a commitment of cooperation between the two parties," it said in a statement at the time.

"Both parties expressed their satisfaction with the envisaged process going forward, and concluded by describing the meeting as constructive.

"The player denied any wrongdoing to the SAHRC and has pledged his full cooperation in the matter."

SAHRC chairperson Bongani Majola said on Monday that he was still in the process of perusing the court papers. 

- Compiled by Riaan Grobler

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