Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Stampede: We’ve been here before

As investigators try to piece together the events that led to the death of two fans at Johannesburg’s Soccer City over the weekend, football administrators are bracing themselves for lawsuits from the families of the bereaved or injured.

South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan confirmed that the Confederation of African Football and Fifa have been briefed, and that the government has been asked to institute an independent commission of inquiry into the tragedy.

Although Minister of Sport Thulas Nxesi has set up a ministerial committee to investigate the stampede, the Premier Soccer League’s executive committee has set up its own probe, led by Vincent Maleka SC.

“This is a sensitive matter and we must be careful and circumspect about how we handle this tragedy,” said Jordaan. “There could be claims lodged by families that lost their loved ones and those that suffered injuries through the courts, and so let us allow due process to take place.

“A football match is supposed to be a place of entertainment. What happened at FNB Stadium is very unfortunate. We are going to ask for a full report and institute a full investigation on what transpired and the cause for the stampede,” he added.

But Jacques Grobbelaar, the chief executive of Stadium Management South Africa, which manages the FNB Stadium, blamed the dozens of people who held counterfeit tickets as well as ticket touts for triggering the tragic event.

“In preliminary investigations and after scrutinising video material of the incident, we have determined that it wasn’t a stampede in any way,” said Grobbelaar.

“A group of about 150 [fans] was going from gate to gate unticketed, distracting security, trying to breach the perimeter fence. They managed to break one emergency gate open and walked in, literally walked through the gate,” he said.

But the question of how people without valid tickets managed to penetrate both the outer and inner perimeter fences and ended up fighting their way into the stadium without being detected as invalid ticket holders remains unknown.

Back in January 1991 at the Orkney Stadium, the Soweto giants met in a preseason friendly match. Pirates supporters pelted Chiefs fans with objects and then charged at them, resulting in a stampede that left 42 people dead.

A decade later, in April 2001, spectators forced their way into Johannesburg’s Ellis Park stadium during a match between the two rivals, causing yet another stampede and the panicking multitudes were crushed against the walls. A total of 43 people lost their lives.

An inquiry led by Judge Bernard Ngoepe made the damning finding that “corrupt” PSL security personnel had illegally allowed spectators through the gates after “collecting” certain fees, even though the people did not have match tickets.

He recommended that corrective measures be implemented whenever the two teams met, suggesting that tickets should be presold — but also that a portion of the stands should be left open by not selling tickets for the stadium’s entire capacity.

South Africa prides itself on its modern stadiums, and the FNB Stadium hosted the Fifa World Cup Final in 2010 without incident. The facilities are the envy of the continent and investing in the training of security personnel is meant to be a priority.

It cannot be that, 20 years after the Orkney disaster and 16 years after the one at Ellis Park, South Africans have still not learned how to handle a big match and prevent such a tragedy from recurring.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

South Africa breaking more temperature records than expected

The country’s climate is becoming ‘more extreme’ as temperature records are broken

More top stories

Komodo dragon faces extinction

The world’s largest monitor lizard has moved up the red list for threatened species, with fewer than 4 000 of the species left

DA says ANC’s implosion has thrown local government elections wide...

The DA launched its 37-page manifesto on a virtual platform under the banner “The DA gets things done”.

South Africa breaking more temperature records than expected

The country’s climate is becoming ‘more extreme’ as temperature records are broken

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…