Durban — It was a moment to savour for thousands who thronged various streets of Durban to catch sight of the Springboks parading with the Rugby World Cup trophy they won two weeks ago in France.
But there were many fans who were left feeling deflated and dejected having missed out on seeing their heroes in the flesh because they congregated at the wrong places.
The blame was largely directed at the eThekwini Municipality as the route on which the Springboks travelled, on board an open-top bus, last Saturday had changed a few times, which caused confusion.
It eventually turned out to be a 5-hour road-trip for the Boks, beginning at uMhlanga’s Garden Court Hotel and ending at Durban’s ICC.
The initial route circulated by the city around midday last Thursday had the Springboks travelling from uMhlanga towards the CBD, traversing various streets like Mahatma Gandhi Road, before halting at the City Hall.
Later that afternoon, also on the municipality’s media WhatsApp group, it was indicated that the trip would begin at 8am, moving down to Durban’s City Hall for a “ceremonial address” at 10.30am and concluding at the ICC at 12.30pm with a press briefing.
The Springboks’ Saturday sojourn ultimately started at the hotel as planned before heading towards Durban North, KwaMashu, KwaDabeka, Pinetown, Kloof, a stop at City Hall and finished at the ICC.
Some critics claimed the route’s changes, which had more twists and turns than Cheslin Kolbe hot-footing his way through opposition defences on a rugby field, were politically motivated.
Mdu Nkosi, the IFP’s leader in eThekwini said it became an embarrassment for people who woke early and stood along the route for hours only to learn it had changed, and caused them frustration. Nkosi said it was also frustrating for law enforcement officers who had to direct traffic.
“People were waiting for Boks and planned their day around seeing their heroes. But this shows the municipality was disorganised and some gave their own directives and changes were made to the routes,” said Nkosi.
The DA’s exco member, Yogis Govender, said what was supposed to be a joyous experience turned out to be a disappointing day for some who waited for up to seven hours without seeing the players.
“The Boks trip was unforgettable for thousands, but it was cringeworthy for those of us who were privy to the logistics roll-out on the day.”
Govender said from the start in uMhlanga it was clear the city didn’t invest in crowd control and it placed the lives of people in danger. She said those who attended the ICC banquet, after a nearly 7-hour wait, were only afforded a few minutes of interaction with the champions, before they were whisked away.
“We are asking the city officials responsible for international relations and co-operation, intergovernmental relations, events, and protocol to account for this. There was clearly a personal disconnect between the players and the public, leaving loyal fans badly short-changed,” said Govender.
The South African Rugby Union said unexpected changes were the norm for such events. “The main objective of presenting the team and trophy to the maximum number of South Africans in the time available was achieved,” read the statement.
Lawrence Tinashe Mupanomunda, the owner of Jozi Vibes entertainment, the bus company that ferried the Springboks, said they didn’t mind the 3-hour detour from the original plan. “This was a massive occasion for the country, my part was to make sure it happens,” said Mupanomunda.
Gugu Sisilana, the municipality’s spokesperson, said the parade had taught the municipality to be more proactive and inclusive in their planning.
Independent on Saturday