South Africa’s rights watchdog on Friday filed legal papers against Springboks World Cup star Eben Etzebeth who has been accused of racial abuse and assault.
Etzebeth, 27, faces charges of using racial slurs against four men in August in Langebaan, a town about 120 kilometres north of Cape Town.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) “formally lodged an equality court application against Eben Etzebeth for using racial slurs,” SAHRC acting legal head Buang Jones told journalists.
“We are sending a clear message with this case that the ‘h’ word falls in the same category as the ‘k’ word,” he said in reference to ‘hottentots’, a derogatory word for people of mixed race and ‘kaffir’, another term of abuse.
The complainants, who are calling themselves the ‘Langebaan Four’, want financial compensation of over R1 million ($66,505) for damages.
They also want the player to undergo a restorative process which includes an apology from Etzebeth, and for him to attend anger management and do community service in Langebaan.
Etzebeth allegedly insulted, assaulted and pointed a gun at a 42-year-old homeless man in the incident.
Etzebeth was playing in South Africa’s 49-3 win over Italy at the World Cup in Japan on the same day that the legal charges against him were being lodged.
Commissioner for the SAHRC, Andre Gaum, maintained that there was “no urgency to get him back to face justice.”
But “if the court instructs Etzebeth to appear before the court during the World Cup, then he will have to appear before the court,” Jones added.
Before jetting off to Japan, the 82-Test lock maintained his innocence.
“It is completely untrue and unfounded to claim that I physically or racially abused anyone in Langebaan as has been reported on social media. Multiple witnesses can corroborate that,” he wrote on Facebook.
“I am and will always strive to be a true ambassador to this beautiful rainbow nation and the sport that I love.”
Meanwhile, the ‘Langebaan Four’ and their legal representation are considering a civil suit against Etzebeth while the South African Police Service are looking into an attempted murder charge, according the SAHRC.
According to Jones, community members claim Etzebeth and his friends, who call themselves the ‘wolf gang pack’, ‘terrorise’ communities along the west coast.
SA Rugby has vowed to cooperate fully with investigations and promised to “take appropriate action once the legal investigation and process have concluded”.