Parliament welcomes judicial inquiry into fan-violence in South African football

At least 18 people were left injured last month as fans invaded the pitch to attack security personnel and damage property in the presence of Police

The South African Police Service (SAPS) admitted to Parliament on Tuesday that they were negligent during a Nedbank Cup match between Kaizer Chiefs and Free State Stars at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in April this year.

Angry fans invaded the pitch soon after the final whistle of Amakhosi's loss to Ea Lla Koto and subsequently assaulted security personnel, damaged TV equipment and burnt the seats around the vanue. 

Appearing before Parliament in Cape Town, Earl Singh, who represented the Commissioner's office, said they neglected to act on findings of a possible threat assessment which they were made aware of way before kick-off. 

Singh confirmed that 697 security personnel were deployed for the encounter in Durban. There were 26 000 spectators at the venue for the clash. 

"A threat assessment was submitted by the SAPS crime intelligence, and the following threats were identified – the pitch invasion was indicated as a possibility, the sales of illegal parking tickets, traffic congestion, increased crime in the vicinity of the stadium. The turnstiles were overcrowded due to deviation, 18 turnstiles were open instead of 40,” said Singh on Tuesday. 

Moses Mabhida Stadium, April 2018

Also present was Stefan Badenhorst of Security Industry Regulatory Authority, who said one of the challenges they're currently facing is that security officers that are screened in the build-up to matches hardly pitch for the main events, and therefore making it impossible for them to find suitable replacements. 

Sabelo Mabiza is just one of the many security personnel who were assaulted by the angry crowd at Moses Mabhida Stadium, but despite being left uncoscious on the pitch, he fortunately got medical assistance and survived. 

“At the day of the deployment the security officer that was screened prior to the event is not necessarily the officer that arrives for the event. And that is a particular problem because then you find security officers that are not adequately trained in the special events curriculum,” Badenhorst said. 

PSL chairman Dr Irvin Khoza has called on lawmakers to criminalise pitch invasions at the stadiums to ensure safety of the supporters.

He feels criminalising pitch invasions would somehow lower the rate at which South African fans run onto the pitch either to celebrate with their respective teams or assault other people as this was the case in Durban.

"We want to submit that until such time in South Africa we criminalise invasion into the pitch of our supporters, once we start to identify the genesis of this criminality it will assist a great deal. So, the responsibility will be placed on the supporters themselves,” Khoza said. 

PSL chairman Dr Irvin Khoza

Meanwhile, a judicial commision of inquiry into these ugly scenes at football matches has been welcomed by Parliament after Minister of Sport and Recreation Thokozile Xasa revealed that her office has written to state president Cyril Ramaphosa to give them the go ahead.  

Xasa said the request was made prior to the incident at the Moses Mabhida Stadium. 

In February 2017, Orlando Pirates fans also invaded the pitch at Loftus Versveld Stadium as their team was walloped 6-0 by Mamelodi Sundowns. They also damaged TV cameras. 

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Less than a year ago, two football fans lost their lives at the FNB Stadium in a stampede which saw fans force their way into the venue during the Carling Black Label Cup match between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. 

"We have since requested the president for a judicial commission and we in fact by the time of the request for a judicial commission, it was before the Moses Mabhida incident," Xasa told Members of Parliament. 

"At our submission, we sought also to include Moses Mabhida in the judicial commission (of inquiry) but in the interim, we had to meet both Safa (South African Football Association) and the PSL so [that] we get to understand (what happened at the Moses Mabhida Stadium). They have submitted an interim report," revealed Xasa.