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16 Sep 2003 00:00
Rugby racists will face life bans once the King inquiry completes its work if Minister of Sport and Recreation Ngconde Balfour gets his way, the Mail & Guardian has learned.
Balfour has been working to hold together the unravelling inquiry into Springbok racism following its postponement until next year.
The planned inquiry took a second blow last Wednesday when Judge Edwin King’s two assistants — academic Julian Smith, a former top-class scrumhalf in non-racial rugby, and advocate Nona Gosa — angrily stepped down from the investigation team.
Smith said he would not lend credibility to a flawed process and that the chance to root out rugby racism had been missed by the delay. He said he had only learned of the inquiry’s postponement through the media.
Balfour was seeking an urgent meeting with Smith in the hope of persuading him to change his mind.
Smith, vice-rector of the University of Stellenbosch, is viewed as fundamental to the success of the investigation.
Sources close to the South African Rugby Football Union suggested that the investigation might fizzle out after the World Cup.
But Sports Ministry spokesperson Graham Abrahams said Balfour would not let up. Abrahams said individuals could effectively be banned from the game for life.
‘This is not a witch-hunt but what must be put in place are mechanisms to address the issues of racism and also remove from rugby those that are guilty.
‘Those people must be educated about the wrongs of their ways and if they are not amenable to change then they should be removed from the game. Come hell or high water we are going to hold them accountable.”
Abrahams ruled out the possibility that the probe might be given real legal muscle by being converted into a government-appointed commission of inquiry.
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