Former Judge Johann van der Westhuizen has found after conducting a thorough internal investigation that Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth is not guilty of either racism or assault. Etzebeth was accused of both after an incident last year at a Cape West Coast nightclub in Langebaan but has now been cleared of both charges.
Although this decision was reached some time back SA Rugby was advised not to make it public at the time.
Van der Westhuizen has made the following findings in the case, which was revealed by the Rapport.
The report’s findings: He could find no grounds whatsoever to proceed with the charges; SA Rugby was advised to have a meeting with Etzebeth to discuss the consequences of these charges and how they could reflect on him; SA Rugby was also advised to have meetings with all Springboks to discuss this issue and how it could affect the public perception of them in the future.
Following these discussions, SA Rugby has now declared the matter closed and does not see any reason to continue with the investigation.
Due to the sensitive relationship between employer and employee, it was also heard that the sports governing body received legal advice at the time not to make the results of this investigation open to the public.
Etzebeth’s attorney, Andre Calitz, has said they welcomed the clearing of his client’s name.
“From the beginning, we’ve found it was unnecessary to change our case. Eben has not pleaded guilty at any stage to defamation or assault and has maintained his innocence at all times,” he said.
Calitz stated that it was just further proof of his innocence when he was informed of the findings of the investigation.
SA Rugby did not make the findings of the report known to the Etzebeth camp at the time but Van der Westhuizen confirmed that both the police and the South African Human Rights Commission (HRC) also investigated the matter.
However, HRC chairman Bongani Majola has stated that their Equality Court case is still pending until the hate speech charges against former broadcaster Jon Qwelane have been resolved. It is not clear when that will happen.
According to a report, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) declared they haven’t decided on whether to prosecute Etzebeth yet.
Eric Ntabazalila, the spokesperson for the NPA in the Western Cape has said that the prosecutor for the case hasn’t indicated to him why there has been no decision in the case as it’s now been 11 months since this incident occurred.
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