Adriaan Basson, news24.com (SA), Mar. 30
Johannesburg — The government has asked for an explanation after a row erupted because a tennis player who won a gold medal at the South African Games in East London recently, was forced to give it back because her team “was too white”.
Sports Minister Ngconde Balfour has given the South African Sport Commission, Gauteng’s department of sport and recreation and tennis bosses until the end of this week to table a report.
“The circumstances must be investigated as soon as possible to ensure no player is treated unfairly,” he said.
Meanwhile Willie de Witt, Gauteng’s team leader, told Beeld that the tournament director’s “personal grievances” could have been the reason why Adele van Niekerk was forced to return her medal.
He said David Kempele, the man who ruled that Van Niekerk could not take part in the tournament, was “unqualified” to make such a decision. He added that in future “more care should be taken when a tournament director is appointment”.
Van Niekerk was disqualified by the Games’ organisers last week because Gauteng apparently did not meet the quota requirements. The team was later informed that she wasn’t considered a member of the team anymore, because she had already taken part in international tournaments.
De Witt said he and the Gauteng team management were informed on Monday last week that Van Niekerk couldn’t take part in the tournament. He and Nthebe Malope, director of Gauteng school sport wrote a letter on Tuesday last week, asking for an explanation.
Gauteng received a letter on Friday, the last day of the tournament, signed by Lindile Kika, chairperson of the Games, saying Van Niekerk had been expelled, because she had contravened rule 5.1 of the Sport Commission.
This says athletes “who have been selected to represent South Africa at an international event,” may not take part in the Games. Van Niekerk has played tennis competitively on invitation in Namibia, Mauritius and Reunion, but she has never represented South Africa at international level.
“We were unhappy with the reaction and feel the correct procedure wasn’t followed,” said De Witt. He added that Kempele was present at some of these overseas tournaments.
Beeld was told that other players who took part in these tournaments, also took part in the Games last week, but not a word was said about their participation.
Kempele couldn’t be reached for comment.