Etzebeth is innocent until proven guilty, SAHRC says after more allegations

Etzebeth is innocent until proven guilty, SAHRC says after more allegations

South Africa's lock Eben Etzebeth gestures during the captain's run training session at the Ecopa stadium in Shizuoka on October 3, 2019, during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

‘I think the remarks that he got away with murder in the past are inappropriate,’ Western Cape SAHRC commissioner Andre Gaum said.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said on Friday it had received further allegations about Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth and his relatives, but maintained a position that he was innocent until proven guilty.

This after it submitted a form to institute a hate speech case against him in the Equality Court, sitting in Hopefield on the West Coast, earlier on Friday.

The commission was acting in a representative capacity for the so-called Langebaan Four complainants who allege Etzebeth had used “a racial slur” against them.

They are looking for compensation of more than R1 million and orders directing Etzebeth to apologise, to undergo anger management and racial sensitivity training as well as doing community service.

“I think this is a matter where there is a factual dispute and therefore this factual dispute will have to be determined by the court, what exactly that position is,” said Western Cape SAHRC commissioner Andre Gaum at a media briefing on Friday afternoon.

“I think it is a bit premature to speculate about possible sanctions. The Equality Court will have to determine what the facts are. I think the remarks that he got away with murder in the past are inappropriate, given the commission has not determined the facts.”

Gaum appeared to soften the tone taken by the commission’s legal head, Buang Jones, at a community meeting in Langebaan on Thursday night.

Jones claimed this was not the first time Etzebeth had engaged in such conduct.

“He always got away with it. But this time around, it stops here,” he said to thunderous applause, News24 reported.

TimesLive also reported that Jones had reportedly said Etzebeth “was used to getting away with murder”.

On Friday, provincial commissioner Chris Nissen said it was not pushing for Etzebeth to return prematurely from the World Cup in Japan.

“We wish that he plays well and hope that he will bring back the cup to South Africa,” he added, indicating the Equality Court case and parallel police investigation would run as they should.

Etzebeth is expected to be given a chance to respond to the papers and the court will set down a date when he can be present.

Etzebeth has been accused of racially abusing a fellow patron at a pub in Langebaan in August. This, as the police are investigating a case of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, crimen injuria and the pointing of a firearm also in August.

“No one has been arrested or charged and the individual implicated in the matter cannot be named at this stage,” said Lieutenant Colonel Andrè Traut.

On Thursday, SAHRC members met with the police, spoke with the management of the local yacht club, looked at CCTV footage and briefed residents in the evening on the case.

Jones said at the briefing on Friday the police were looking at the possibility of charging Etzebeth with attempted murder.

He added the commission had received support from many South Africans of all races.

“There are people who are coming forward with more information pertaining to Mr Etzebeth. A white compatriot, an elderly pensioner, has brought to my attention that there are other allegations against the Etzebeths that have not been handled properly and he would like the commission to also intervene,” said Jones.

“There are a number of allegations that have been made, some which still need to be verified. We were told last night by the community that Mr Etzebeth and his friends, they call themselves the Wolf Pack gang, they have been terrorising communities on the West Coast and they would like the commission to intervene.”

Etzebeth responded to the allegations on his Facebook page.

He said: “It is completely untrue and unfounded to claim that I physically or racially abused anyone in Langebaan as has been reported on social media. Multiple witnesses can corroborate that.

“I am and will always strive to be a true ambassador to this beautiful rainbow nation and the sport that I love.”

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