Opinion

Did Human Rights Commissioners Strike A Deal With Eben Etzebeth Exonerating Him from Racism Charge?

Letter to SAHRC By Sammy Claasen on Behalf Of Victims & Complainants In Etzebeth Case

EDITOR’S NOTE: IN the ongoing saga involving allegations of hate speech and assault and the Equality Court case against Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth, there have been complaints and counter complaints sent to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). Much has happened, accusations and counter accusations. Etzebeth continues to play at the Rugby World Cup in Japan, racism has again reared its head at the World Cup (a joke the team has said) and the legal head at SAHRC is being investigated for his conduct at a meeting held to deal with the Etzebeth matter. We’ve received many letters but it is this one by Sammy Claasen to the SAHRC that concerned us most. Claasen accuses a SAHRC commissioners of having struck a deal with Etzebeth without the knowledge of the victims. It is this alleged agreement that exonerated Etzbeth from facing the charges of hate speech and possible exclusion from the team to Japan, the complaint reads. We have removed the name of the commissioner implicated and shall publish it when we receive a response from him. 
_____________________________________________________________________________________
 
The CEO
Adv Thipanyane
 
Re: Our Complaint
 
This serves to formally inform you that I  have been instructed by the victims and their legal representative to make known to you that the victims are seriously concerned at the behind the scenes dealings, power play, possible agreements made to the legal representatives of Eben Etzebeth, meetings that were held by Human Rights Commissioners with Eben Etzebeth and his lawyer without the knowledge, consent or consultation with the victims and the complainants in this matter.
 
As you are aware of the fact that our formal complaint against Eben Etzebeth was lodged at the offices of the Human Rights Commission on the 26 August 2019. Now, what we found uncomfortable and strange was the fact that some human rights commissioners have met with the alleged perpetrator Mr Eben Etzebeth and his lawyer to discuss this case. This meeting was done on the 29 August 2019 without informing, consulting or any form of discussions with the complainant or the victims in the case.
 
The Weekend Argus of last weekend, 6th October 2019 widely reported and quoted the legal representative of Mr Eben Etzebeth saying or claiming that certain commissioners had given them an agreement, undertaking and or assurances that no investigations will be done and that Mr Eben Etzebeth can go to Japan. The complainant and the victims were never informed, nor consulted or asked for their views or consent to such a discussion and or agreement.
 
We subsequently established that Commissioner (name withheld) was part of that meeting of 29 August 2019. He was also at our community meeting that took place 01 September 2019, in Langebaan at the Langebaan Primary School Sports Ground. He was aware of this alleged agreement but kept quiet and failed to inform the victims, complainants and the affected community about this agreement. Days after the community meeting in Langebaan we established that this same commissioner left for Japan to be with the Springboks.
 
The victims, complainants and the community were shocked at this. We felt betrayed and a growing sense of mistrust developed between the victims and the Human Rights Commission. This mistrust and frustration was subsequently managed through the intervention by Adv Buang Jones and Chris Nissen managed to calm the victims and the community to continue to participate in giving statements, evidence and co-operate to the point where the case was submitted to the Equality Court.
 
We are pleased with the professional manner and conduct of Advocate Buang Jones and his assistant Adv Kelly Anne Cleophas. The trust has been reaffirmed and established. The victims are feeling comfortable and calm as they are happy with the progress.
 
However clarity on the following matters of concern is needed.
 
* Why did the Human Rights Commission meet with the alleged perpetrator Mr Eben Etzebeth on 29 August 2019 without informing or consulting the victims and complainants?
 
*What was the agreement reached between these commissioners and the lawyer of Mr Eben Etzebeth?
 
* Why were the victims, complainant and the affected community kept in the dark about this agreement for so long?
 
*Why did the Human Rights Commission allow (name withheld) to leave for two weeks to Japan to be with the Springboks whilst this case was assigned to him and his staff?
 
* Why did (name withheld) not inform the victims, complainants and the community of Langebaan on the 01 September 2019 at that community meeting that he is unable to investigate the case as he was about to leave for two weeks to Japan? He did not inform us but we only became aware of it a week after his departure. This caused massive mistrust and raised serious concerns with the victims and complainants.
 
*Why are there now very serious attempts to silence and victimise Adv Buang Jones?
 
*Who laid the internal complaints against Adv Buang Jones and Chris Nissen, and why?
 
*Why is there a faction within the Human Rights Commission when it comes to this case?
 
* Why are there attempts from certain individuals within the Human Rights Commission to stop this investigation or to jeopardise the speed and efficient handling of the case?
 
*Why is there such great conflict and unhappiness after the Human Rights Commission submitted the case to the Equality Court in Hopefield last Friday?
 
* Why is it that after the Friday submission of the application to the Equality Court there is a witch hunt or investigation and a push from within certain quarters of the Human Rights Commission to investigate, silence and illigtemise Adv Buang Jones and others who have assisted in the case?
 
We need answers to our concerns. This is seriously compromising our complaints and the rights of the victims were compromised as it seems as if certain commissioners are not happy with the speed and progress made thus far. Hence these power play behind the scenes, dealings that might bring the commission into disrepute as some ethical and moral issues within the Human Rights Commission might compromise our complaints.
 
If these dynamics exist then we need to know why the commission is failing in its Constitutional mandate to protect the rights of the complainants and victims when it unilaterally met with Mr Etzebeth (alleged perpetrator) and his lawyer without the consultation and knowledge of the complainants. What made this worse is the alleged agreement and offer that was made to these perpetrators without any consultation whatsoever with the victims and the complainants. This has violated the rights of the victims and complainants and is a breach of the code of conduct, the law and procedures of the Human Rights Commission.
 
We call for an internal investigation to establish the facts to our complaint. We want to give the Commission ample time but we need to get feedback within 7days from now. We want an assurance that no interference will delay or derail the Equality Court proceedings and that Adv Buang Jones will continue with the case.
 
We hope that our letter will receive the required urgency.
 
 
Regards
 
Sammy Claassen
 
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