PARLIAMENT

An inquiry is needed to probe soccer violence – sports minister

By Suné Payne 9 May 2018

Tokozile Xasa (GCIS)

A judicial commission of inquiry is needed to investigate violence at soccer matches following the pitch invasion during a Nedbank Cup semi-final.

The Department of Sport and Recreation is waiting for the President to sign off on a judicial commission of inquiry into soccer violence. Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, new Sports and Recreation Minister Thokozile Xasa said her department had sent a request to the president asking for an inquiry into the violence occurring at high-profile soccer matches in South Africa.

Xasa said the request was sent “before the Moses Mabhida (stadium) incident”.

The violence at the Moses Mabhida Stadium was the focus of a joint meeting between the portfolios of sport and recreation and police on Tuesday. The meeting was called by the sports and recreation committee after fans invaded the pitch following a Nedbank Cup semi-final match between Kaizer Chiefs and Free State Stars on 21 April.

Xasa described the events as “unfortunate”and said her department was grossly concerned about violence and behaviour at soccer matches, citing another violent incident at the FNB Stadium in 2017.

Xasa told MPs the department was “calling on key role players to get involved in this process, to prevent further such incidents”, in reference to a commission.

During the meeting, deputy police minister Bongani Mkongi said the question of “growing hooliganism in soccer is a national threat”, comparing the violence and hooliganism to what is seen in England and other parts of Europe.

Mkongi said the South African Police Service will support a commission.

Also present at the meeting was Dr Irvin Khoza, chairperson of the National Soccer League.

Let me categorically state upfront that the Exco of the National Soccer League, like you and your committee, were and remain shocked, extremely disappointed and concerned regarding the unacceptable events at Moses Mabhida Stadium,” said Khoza, adding that the league was willing to work with the committee and department to address acts of violence.

In their response, the SAPS said it would work with the department during such a commission of inquiry.

National police commissioner General Khehla Sitole told the committee that fan violence and hooliganism were not specific to other sports like rugby or cricket, but only to soccer.

If it is only particular to football (soccer), we need to study it carefully,” said Sitole.

SAPS confirmed there were 26,185 people in attendance during the match. Afterwards, several spectators invaded the pitch and confronted security personnel.

A total of 21 injuries were reported, including to four security personnel, one of which was caught on film and spread on social media.

TV cameras, speakers, windows in certain suites were broken and some stadium seats were set alight.

According to EWN, the total number of arrests currently sits at six, but SAPS said on Tuesday that Supersport has provided them with the images of 13 more suspects, who are being sought.

Chairperson of the sports and recreation committee, Beauty Dlulane, said the committee had called the meeting with the PSL and the department, because the committee decided she couldn’t ask questions through the media.

The focus of the committee was not to attack either the PSL or SAFA, but to seek clarity on the way forward to prevent future incidents, said Dlulane. DM

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