S. Africa Rugby Chief Stays Put
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ The racial crisis over South African rugby remained unresolved Sunday, with the boss of the white-dominated sport remaining in his post despite being quoted as saying he would step down Sunday.
The standoff between Louis Luyt’s South African Rugby Football Union and the National Sports Council threatens to renew an international boycott of South African rugby for the first time since the days of apartheid. It also underscores racial divisions in the country four years after its first all-race elections.
Although the crisis appeared to be diminishing with a report in the Afrikaans-language weekly on Sunday quoting Luyt as saying he would step down, the National Sports Council had other demands pending and had not rescinded a request for international rugby teams to postpone scheduled games against South Africa.
Although there was little doubt Luyt would step down, there was confusion about how he would do so.
By mid-afternoon Sunday, SARFU spokesman Anthony Mackaiser said Luyt had not formally resigned. He said Luyt could inform them of his plans to resign in a letter, in person or by telephone, then formalize it in a meeting of SARFU’s executive committee.
But Luyt’s personal secretary, Susan Kruger, told The Associated Press that Luyt could only resign at a meeting of SARFU’s executive committee, and that no such meeting would be held on Sunday. It would be Luyt, who remains SARFU’s president, who would call such a meeting, Kruger said.
``It will happen in two or three days,″ Kruger said in a telephone interview.
South Africa’s sports oversight committee, the National Sports Council, is demanding a new SARFU management team, the resumption of a commission of inquiry into SARFU’s affairs _ which SARFU had successfully halted by going to court, the resignation of the entire SARFU executive committee and an apology to President Nelson Mandela for making him testify in its court appeal.
The sport’s council on Friday asked international teams to postpone scheduled games after Luyt rejected a request the previous day by SARFU’s executive committee to resign. Minutes after the meeting, all four black members of the executive committee quit in protest.
With most blacks hating rugby and the national Springboks team as symbols of white dominance, Mandela tried to use the sport to promote racial reconciliation after he took power in the 1994 elections.
To show his support during the 1995 World Cup, Mandela attended the final game wearing a Springbok jersey.
But although South Africans were united in celebrating the Springbok’s 1995 World Cup championship, little appeared to have changed within the union that runs the sport.
When Mandela named a committee to investigate allegations of racism, corruption and nepotism in SARFU, the union went to court this year to block the probe, dragging the president to the witness stand.
That enraged many blacks and some whites, who felt SARFU had gone too far and was trying to humiliate Mandela.