Absa Premiership

Dear minister Xasa, you are way offside

S'Busiso Mseleku
S'Busiso Mseleku

To: Ms Tokozile Xasa, sports and recreation minister

Dear Ms Xasa

By way of introduction, I am a sports writer who ekes out a living at this august Sunday publication.

You might or might not remember – that is if the message did reach your ears – that this poor fellow tried in vain to have a sit down and chew some cud with you on the week you were appointed.

The reason for this missive is to call you offside on your decision to cancel the inquiry into the stampede at the FNB Stadium last July, where two people died and 21 were injured.

I was appalled when I read an article in a Sunday newspaper quoting the families of the two people who lost their lives, as saying that you did not have the courtesy to inform them of your decision.

I am not sure what informed your decision to call off such an important inquiry that was set up by your predecessor, Thembelani “Thulas” Nxesi.

Whatever informed it, it has unfortunately lent itself to the school of thought that lives, more especially those of blacks – who form the majority of football followers in this country – don’t matter.

Ever heard of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter?

Has it been brought to your attention that the two people who died at FNB Stadium last year brought to 87 the number of people who have died in matches involving Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates since 1991?

To bring you up to speed, 42 people died in a stampede in an off-season “friendly” between the two clubs at the Oppenheimer Stadium in Orkney on January 13 1991.

Reports at the time were that 30 000 fans were packed like sardines into the 23 000-seater venue, 180km from Johannesburg.

The person who organised that event is still active in the top echelons of South African football.

Then, on April 11 2001, 43 supporters died in what was termed “the worst sporting disaster in South African history” at Ellis Park Stadium, in a match involving the same two clubs.

As a reasonable person (my assumption as I doubt the country’s president would appoint an unreasonable person as a Cabinet minister, more especially to such an important portfolio), you will agree with me that 87 deaths are just too many.

In fact, one death is just one too many.

It was with this background that I found it hard to take you seriously when you hopped up and down like a cat on a hot tin roof following last Saturday’s mayhem at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, where people were injured, property damaged and parts of the venue set alight.

You missed a great opportunity to pursue the FNB Stadium matter where lives were lost. The results of this inquiry would have provided solutions to this scourge that seems to be following our football, with no visible solution in sight.

However, your decision to stop that inquiry gave the impression that you were not as compassionate and determined to root this out as somebody in your position should be.

Without condoning the thuggery of those Chiefs supporters who pelted Steve Komphela and his players with unidentified flying objects at the FNB Stadium, and those who beat up people and destroyed property at Moses Mabhida, some might have read your withdrawal of that inquiry as you saying it is not a very serious matter.

Having visited the offices of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) a few weeks ago, I hope you touched on this serious matter in your discussions over tea and cookies.

The sooner you reinstate the inquiry and devise stringent measures that will ensure no other life is lost in a football match the better, or else you will be remembered as a toothless minister, which will be sad.

NB: As an aside, the next time you see the police minister – who has also visited the PSL offices in recent weeks – ask him on behalf of the country how far his charges are to arresting the scumbags who killed Senzo Meyiwa, who was then Bafana Bafana captain, nearly four years ago.

I remain yours in sport.


Follow me on Twitter @Sbu_Mseleku