I don't hate Afrikaners, say angry Watson

Western Province loose forward Luke Watson says his comments on transformation have been distorted for "propagandistic purposes" and have been unlawfully recorded and distributed.

His controversial comments are to be the subject of an emergency meeting today of the SA Rugby Union (Saru), which has had its fair share of having to deal with fallouts from alleged tapes and videos involving key figures, ranging from Andre Markgraaff and Kamp Staaldraad to, more recently, a Saru official who made unsubstantiated allegations about Springbok coach Peter de Villiers.

Afrikaner rights group Afriforum has demanded that Watson apologise and retract his alleged statements or face a charge of hate speech.

Watson made the comments while speaking at the University of Cape Town Rugby Football Club on October 3.

They were made public in the press and online media two days after the campaign was stepped up for the divisive Springbok emblem to go.

Delegates at a national sport indaba in Durban resolved on Friday that it was time rugby joined other national teams in adopting the King Protea.

They mandated the sports controlling body, Sascoc, to make the official demand in writing to the SA Rugby Union by Tuesday.

Among the comments Watson was quoted as making was: "The problem with South African rugby is that it is controlled by Dutchmen."

He was quoted as saying he felt like a "political pawn" after he was included controversially in the Bok squad against coach Jake White's wishes and shunned by fellow players.

Watson, the son of outspoken Eastern Cape activist Cheeky Watson - an avid proponent of the death of the Springbok - also referred to the burden of wearing the Bok jersey and not "vomiting on it" because of "the bigger picture", which included that "men and women" had bled for him to get where he was.

In a brief statement on Sunday, Watson said he was left with a "feeling of absolute disgust that people could stoop to these levels for the sake of a story".

"This was a private discussion on transformation. It was unlawfully audio recorded and unlawfully distributed and I therefore reserve my rights."

Attempts by "some elements" to turn his comments into an attack on Afrikaans people was "disingenuous and despicable".

"We as an entire family have historically fought against discrimination of any sort. How could I possibly be accused of an anti-Afrikaner attitude? My maternal grandmother is a Van Rensburg, my paternal great-grandmother was a Schoeman and my aunt is a Swanepoel."

The "vindictive and malicious propagandistic assaults" were aimed at deflecting the debate from the "real issues", such as transformation, unification and sport development.

"Anyone who knows me would reject this slanderous attack with the contempt it deserves," Watson said.

His father, Cheeky, said on Sunday night Luke had spoken at UCT on transformation at a privately arranged discussion group.

His son's views had been distorted and taken "totally out of context".

His lawyer, he said, was of the opinion that the comments were unlawfully recorded and distributed.

"This is a serious legal matter," said Watson senior.

Saru said it was shocked by the statements and had called an urgent meeting on Monday to determine the accuracy of the reports with Western Province, Watson's contracting union, and the University of Cape Town Rugby Club.

"If the reports are accurate, this is a very serious matter indeed," SA rugby MD Andy Marinos said in a statement.

"But we can't prejudge the matter on the strength of media reports and we can make no definitive statement until we have in our hands what evidence there may be."

A further statement would be issued after Monday's meeting, Marinos said.

Afriforum said its lawyers would send Watson junior a letter demanding that he withdraw his comments about "Dutchmen" within seven days and apologise unconditionally.

If Watson refused, he would be hauled before the Equality Court on charges of hate speech, said Afriforum's Kallie Kriel.

A similar letter was sent to National Assembly sports committee chairperson Butana Komphela demanding that he withdraw his comment that whites were "arrogant" regarding the Springbok emblem.

Meanwhile, Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile is expected to brief the ANC national working committee on Monday about the indaba's resolution that the Bok emblem should go before next month's tour of England, Scotland and Wales.

This after party spokesperson Jessie Duarte pulled the rug from under her comrades' feet on Friday.

While the ANC opted for a public show of unity, it was clear that behind the scenes Duarte's statement that the ANC believed the Springbok should stay for now as there had not been sufficient "consultation" with stakeholders and fans - had caused internal ructions.

The statement is an apparent contradiction of an ANC Polokwane resolution that all national sports teams should adopt one emblem, and is to be challenged internally.

Stofile said on Friday: "The sport indaba has taken a decision, and what the ANC says has nothing to do with it. These people are not being dictated to by what the ANC says. We must report to the ANC this resolution and if they think there must be another consultation, then they must tell us between whom?"




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