Johannesburg - Black Leopards boss David Thidiela must be banned from all football for life.
What he did to referee Victor Hlungwani on Sunday after his club lost 1-0 to Bloemfontein was more than atrocious and I am still searching for a more appropriate adjective.
Thidiela holds high office in South African football because, apart from being Leopards’ owner, he serves on the seven-member Premier Soccer League (PSL) executive committee.
By insulting Hlungwani, Thidiela’s actions have gone far beyond being a football matter. It is a matter of national concern.
Many South Africans know and are disheartened by the fact that today, 24 years after attaining our freedom and voting in a democratic government, we are still faced with the scourge of racism.
Besides racism, which usually comes from white supremacists, Africa has been ravaged by tribalism.
No African wants to be reminded of or even associated with the Rwandan genocide, also known as the genocide against the Tutsis who were no longer regarded as citizens but referred to as inyenzi (cockroaches).
History tells us that the genocide was planned by members of the core Hutu political elite. The acts of killing were carried out by members of the Rwandan army known as the Gendarmeriewho were helped by members of the government-backed militia, theInterahamwe and Impuzamugambi, in carrying out these heinous acts.
Reports put the number of Tutsis who were killed at between 500 000 and 1 million between April 7 and mid-July in 1994. An estimated 2 million Rwandans are said to have been displaced during that period.
We don’t want to go there!
Closer to home, isilonda esibhibhayo (the festering wound) caused by the Vuwani riots that pitted Vhavenda against Vatsonga has hardly dried up.
For Thidiela then to refer to Hlungwani as “I muchangani xilo lexi[this thing is a Shangaan]” – in the full glare of the media, spectators and match officials – is derogatory in the extreme and it exposed him as a bigot of the worst kind.
Shocked Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa was spot on when she said: “There is no place in our country for tribalism. As the ministry of sport, we can’t allow what is meant to unite us as a nation to divide us. Many people perished not only in our country, but on our continent.
“Football is known all over the world as the beautiful game; we don’t need owners of teams to spoil that.”
She urged the SA Football Association (Safa) to “take the matter seriously and it [must] never happen again”.
One hopes that Safa and the PSL acts decisively on this and sends out a strong message that there is no room for racism and tribalism in our football.
Safa must do much more than just be “disappointed by Mr Thidiela’s flagrant abuse of the match official‚ an attack peppered by open tribal undertones”.
One hopes that, after receiving Hlungwani’s report, Safa will act speedily and deal with this matter properly and thoroughly.
The PSL discussed the matter at a board of governors – the highest decision-making body – meeting on Wednesday and decided to refer “the matter to the league’s prosecutor Mr Nande Becker for urgent attention” and, “in the interim, place Mr Thidiela on precautionary suspension from the PSL executive committee until the matter is resolved”.
Those familiar with my views on the Becker-led PSL disciplinary committee can already guess my expectations.
Just last week, the said disciplinary committee sanctioned – behind closed doors – Kaizer Chiefs to play three matches behind closed doors (with one suspended) for the Moses Mabhida Stadium incident and conveniently forgot to revoke the suspension of the R200 000 fine for the FNB Stadium violence after the club’s 3-0 loss to Chippa United in April.
Benni McCarthy and Pitso Mosimane have been referred to this toothless committee, the former for his unsavoury utterances and the latter over allegations of assaulting an AmaZulu FC security guard.
Wish I could say we wait with bated breath for the outcome!
. Follow me on Twitter @Sbu_Mseleku