‘Black Baboon’ slur leaves sting in the tail… Wanderers’ victory tainted by accusations of racism
Almost half a week has lapsed and the powers that be at Lichtenstein Strasse are yet to pronounce themselves on the nasty racial incident that spoiled the White Stallions’ astonishing win in the Gold Cup match over the visiting Northam Platinum Rhinos in Windhoek last weekend.
It has been customary practice for the Namibia Rugby Union to issue a press release immediately after the match whenever players are cited for misconduct, dangerous play, or any other offense that could potentially bring the game of rugby into disrepute.
Saturday’s match between hosts Wanderers and the visiting Rhinos – representing the Limpopo Province – was marred by controversy as a result of a scuffle between the visitors’ dark-skinned tight-head prop, Pat Mulamba, and Wanderers hooker Theo Coetzee.
The nasty incident happened seven minutes from time when the bulky South African reacted angrily to an apparent racial slur directed at him by Coetzee.
Sources with intimate knowledge of the incident said Coetzee used the following words in Afrikaans: “Jou swart bobbejaan” (meaning: “you black baboon”).
Mulamba did not take kindly to the racial taunt and resorted to taking matters into his own hands by beating the lights out of his alleged slanderer, who was shielded by his teammate, flanker Rohan Kritschof.
His somewhat justified retaliation led to the ensuing scuffle between both sets of players, as they tried to defuse the ugly spat.
Wanderers entered the maiden edition of the South African Provincial Gold Cup for regional club champions under a highly debated technicality at the expense of legitimate Namibian rugby champions Unam.
Although the rules of the competition do not make provision for university rugby teams to participate, unlike South Africa, Namibia does not have a university league and the dominant view is that the NRU should have explained the situation diplomatically, instead of installing Wanderers as champions – a scenario some have likened to “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.
Speaking on condition of anonimity, a clearly disappointed rugby official from South Africa condemned the incident in strongest terms, saying a significant number of white Namibians have not been able or willing to embrace the spirit of national and racial unity.
Wanderers coach JP Nel in turn tried by all means to pour cold water on the debacle, downplaying the incident to the apparent nature of rugby as a physical sport, without making any reference to the offensive racist slur.
In fact, Nel did not even attempt to dismiss the unbecoming behaviour of his player that led to the vile incident on the field.
Wanderers are no strangers to racist accusations, after Unam player Juwain Klein (hooker/prop) complained bitterly of having been subjected to racial abuse during the final second division league match of the season between the two clubs in August.
The club responded by filing an official complaint about the incident, but league officials have apparently been dilly-dallying in taking swift action against the accused player, whose name is known to New Era Sport.
Attempts to get clarity on this burning issue from the NRU proved futile yesterday as the mobile phone of the union’s acting CEO, Elizma Theron, went unanswered despite numerous attempts to reach her.