Etzebeth drama being used to 'boost' Buang Jones's shot at deputy public protector job: Afrikanerbond

29 October 2019 - 17:04 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth has denied assaulting a homeless man or using racial slurs.
Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth has denied assaulting a homeless man or using racial slurs.
Image: Wessel Oosthuizen/Gallo Images

The Afrikanerbond is sticking to its guns, accusing the head of legal services at the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) of using the row over Eben Etzebeth's alleged misconduct to boost his chances of being appointed as the next deputy public protector.

The organisation sent a letter to the commission on Monday, saying three weeks had passed since it had complained about the conduct of Buang Jones.

It raised concerns about Etzebeth being judged before a formal investigation had been completed and accused Jones of being prejudiced in the case.

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"We are of the opinion that three weeks is ample time to investigate the conduct of Mr Jones and to make a finding - and even more so, to make the finding public as it is in the public interest. Furthermore, a finding by the SAHRC will influence the suitability of Mr Jones’s name on the shortlisted candidates for interviews for the post of deputy public protector," said the letter.

The letter was penned the day before Totalsports said it had removed posters of the Springbok lock from its stores, citing media controversy around the player.

Etzebeth has been accused of physically and racially abusing four people during an altercation outside a pub in Langebaan, in the Western Cape. The four are claiming R1m in damages.

Shortly after the incident was reported, Jones told the community of Langebaan that “Etzebeth is used to getting away with murder”.

The commission lodged a case with the Equality Court, where it is representing the alleged victims.

Etzebeth said in a detailed affidavit that the decision by the commission to take his alleged assault and racial abuse matter to the Equality Court instead of investigating it first was “unfair and irrational”.

In a 49-page affidavit filed in the South Gauteng High Court on October 14, he challenged the commission’s decision and gave his version of events. In it, he said allegations that he assaulted and racially abused people had no basis in truth whatsoever.

“I met the commission members on August 29 2019, the day before I was to leave for Japan with the Springbok rugby team,” he said.

Etzebeth said he was given an undertaking at the meeting that the matter would be investigated - and that he would be provided with the details of the complaint against him and an opportunity to respond once he got back from the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

This, he said, did not happen.

“Instead, the commission decided abruptly to terminate its investigation. It says it has brought proceedings against me in the Equality Court and has conducted an aggressive media campaign against me," he said. “Its representatives have accused me of hate speech, assault and attempted murder. They have said publicly that I should be in jail, that the commission would make sure that I'do not get away with it again'.”

Etzebeth wants the court to review and set aside the decision taken by the commission to terminate the investigation.

“Although the allegations are false, I accept that they must be investigated because they are very serious. In a lawful process, as required by the constitution and the Human Rights Commission Act, I am entitled to a proper, lawful investigation, and so are the complainants,” said Etzebeth.

“The decisions were taken in a procedurally unfair and irrational manner. The commission failed to conduct itself as an independent and impartial investigator and adjudicator of complaints.”

Relating events that led to the complaints against him being made, Etzebeth said on August 4 he and a group of family and friends went to Langebaan Yacht Club.

He said he was wearing a cap, which was against the establishment’s dress code. “When I entered, I was advised that I would have to remove my cap when I attended the bar, which I did. During the course of the evening I, through force of habit, put the cap back on my head,” he said.

He said a white male patron then confronted him and insisted that he remove it, “in a rude and loud manner”.

“During this confrontation, no racial epithets were used and the matter was resolved peacefully as the person who had insulted me, his wife and an older man agreed that they should not have disrespected me. We shook hands and all was settled.”

Etzebeth said all those involved in the fracas were white. At around midnight, he and his friends went to the Watergat pub in Langebaan.

“At around 2am we proceeded to leave the premises, but there was what looked like an argument, or a fight, outside. As my girlfriend and I were walking to my car, a red Honda almost reversed into me. I had to alert him [driver] of my presence by knocking against his back window. He responded by swearing at me and driving away,” he said.

While this was happening, Etzebeth said, another group approached his cousin, who was standing alone, in a threatening manner. He, his brother and their friends stepped closer in case the men wanted to assault his cousin. 

“I told my friends that we should leave immediately as I was concerned the situation could escalate. As we drove away, somebody threw a bottle at my car. I turned the vehicle around and questioned onlookers as to who had thrown the bottle. I climbed out of my car to check the damage and my friends came back to see why I was taking so long.”

According to Etzebeth, there was a group of people swearing at them. He and his friends confronted them. 

“I saw my brother running into a badly lit area, where I feared for his safety, and I ran after him to call him back before he became involved in an altercation. As we returned to the car, stones were thrown at us.”

He denied assaulting anyone during the two incidents, "nor did I racially abuse any person in any way”.