I read News24 editor Adriaan Basson’s column on Eben Etzebeth with interest this morning. I always look out for his columns as they are well written and interesting and in this case I have even more interest than usual having written a few short items on this topic for our sports opinion based website www.mytwocents.co.za.
In this instance, I respectfully disagree with Basson’s argument.
Basson incorrectly points to “mounting evidence” in his column. Where is this mounting evidence? The fact that the SAHRC has lodged a case does not in any way equate to mounting evidence. To date there has not even been enough evidence to warrant an arrest. If there had been an arrest or a warrant issued, then absolutely Etzebeth should not be at the RWC.
The primary issue that I have regarding this matter is just that … a lack of evidence. I firmly believe that if there was any incriminating evidence available, without doubt it would have surfaced by now and the media would have got hold of it. Particularly in this age of investigative journalism. I mean, if Cyril Ramaphosa’s private emails can be leaked then surely if there existed a damning video clip or voice recording or an unbiased witness or two to the incident, it would have been leaked.
Basson also incorrectly attempts to pad his case with an anecdote that Etzebeth and his family members behaved badly at a New Year’s party at Club Mykonos. Were there any racist allegations made and were any charges laid pertaining to that incident? If so, why have we not heard anything about it? To speculate on an event that was unrelated and undocumented based on hearsay adds no weight to his argument at all and smacks of hyperbole.
Back to the Watergat incident. I wasn’t there and am not in possession of any information that the public doesn’t have so let’s paint two possible scenarios for the sake of argument:
1) Ebzebeth was involved in a fracas at the bar, used a racist term and assaulted a homeless man as is alleged. If that was the case and it is proven to be so, as Rassie has explained in a press conference – Etzebeth should be charged with assault and crimen injuria and never play for the Springboks again.
2) There is no doubt that some kind of confrontation occurred. Etzebeth was involved but not directly. Maybe one of his entourage used a racist slur and maybe punches were exchanged between the two groups. Alcohol was involved and things got out of hand. Who knows? Maybe Etzebeth even tried to separate the groups?
The point is that at this juncture NOBODY outside of those involved KNOWS. What if it was scenario 2 that played out? Is it then fair to disrupt team unity and send a player home from an event that is the pinnacle of any rugby player’s career?
Basson refers to team disunity and non-white players struggling to play with an alleged racist in the team. Again there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of that and I doubt Rassie would risk that type of team disunity happening at the RWC.
Basson also criticises SARU for their poor handling of this matter. Does he know what actions SARU have attempted to date? Perhaps SARU has discussed this matter extensively and asked Etzebeth to withdraw from the squad already. Maybe his lawyer in turn threatened SARU with a massive lawsuit for loss of future earnings for preventing a player from competing at a RWC based on flimsy evidence? This is pure conjecture on my behalf, the point being though that there is a lot more to this behind the scenes than a simple tap on the shoulder, a shrug and the handing over of a ticket home.
Basson argues, that despite a lack of evidence, this case is of sufficient urgency to disrupt the team further than they have already been disrupted and have Etzebeth sent home. Rassie has already had to diffuse the Makazole Mapimpi “bomb squad” snub story and rightly pointed out that it is sad that he would have to speak about something so silly at this world cup when team unity is so strong.
Again, if there is any new and damning evidence that comes to light on Etzebeth then he needs to be – and I am sure will be – sent home immediately. Until such time, he should be given the benefit of the doubt, as is the universal acceptance of the rule of law.
Can we just let the team get on with what they are trying to do and that is to bring happiness to millions of South Africans of all races by winning the RWC?
The only thing that needs to come home right now is the William Webb Ellis Trophy!