Johannesburg - The organisation, Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA) Athletes has accused Swimming SA of lying to parliament and laid a formal child abuse complaint against the swimming body.
Following a Swimming SA briefing to the National Assembly, WMACA submitted a six-page letter to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Sport, Arts and Culture, accusing Swimming SA Chairperson Alan Fritz of lying, saying his presentation are “blatant lies”.
WMACA said the statements submitted by Fritz regarding several allegations of sexual abuse by a number of coaches who are members of Swimming South Africa, some going back 40 years, are false.
A year ago, The Saturday Star reported that two cases of sexual abuse were brought to the attention of Swimming South Africa. The first case, involving two women, dates back 40 years, while the other incident is said to be recent (2019). Swimming SA released a short statement at the time saying it has since instituted an investigation into what it says are “very serious allegations.”
Swimming SA CEO Shaun Adriaanse said at the time: “Until such time as the investigation is concluded, no further public comments will be made. Under the circumstances, we are unable to confirm the identity of any of the parties involved as the matter is under investigation”.
But now, the co-founder and CEO of WMACA, Olivia Jasriel, said Swimming SA had stalled investigations and said the statements made by Fritz before parliament were untrue and felt them to be completely dismissive of the trauma the victims of the sexual abuse suffered.
“The statements he made are very much against his opening comment that Swimming SA is extremely sensitive throughout their structures towards any improper conduct, in particular, that of a sexual nature towards minors.”
In the six-page letter to parliament, WMACA highlighted what it calls the dishonesty and the total lack of respect not only for the laws of this country but for the victims. Jasriel said Fritz claimed Swimming SA was made aware of three matters relating to improper conduct.
“This is untrue. In July 2021, a fourth victim spoke out about his abuse and the radio silence received by Swimming SA. Anthony Rocchi, submitted a sexual abuse claim in 2016 to CEO Shaun Adriaanse through coaches Dean Pryce and Wayne Ridden, against Australian coach John Wright, who has subsequently been arrested in Australia on multiple claims of sexual abuse and is awaiting trial. WMACA athletes and Mr Rocchi advised Swimming SA and SASCOC of the criminal matter that was pending against John Wright who had coached for Swimming South Africa, in Durban in the 90’s,” she said.
Jasriel said in the case of the first complainant (Mrs Debbie Wade): this was brought to the attention of Swimming South Africa in 2019 but the complainant was not ready and the matter was brought back to Swimming South Africa in 2020 when she was ready to talk.
“Fritz claims that without breaching any rules of protocol, procedures and the law, Swimming SA has set out to investigate the matter. Swimming SA commissioned an attorney to do that, and they followed their own internal disciplinary procedure. Fritz stated that with a full panel of experts, a disciplinary hearing was set up and the member, the complainant in this case, withdrew from the hearing and refused to provide an affidavit or statement of the nature of the conduct. We find it very strange that Fritz would state that the member/complainant refused to provide an affidavit or statement when there was communication from the attorney to the complainant,” she said.
Jasriel added that the Goldman Report found that Swimming South Africa refused to furnish the complainant as well as the Portfolio Committee with, despite an order being served on Swimming South Africa, this information, citing that it is a criminal investigation, and therefore, they cannot make the report public.
A police officer, who wanted to remain anonymous, confirmed to Saturday Star that an inquiry was indeed opened and the allegations are being investigated.
“It took 11 years for the docket to get on the roll. Cape Town SAPS will now close the case and the matter will be investigated by Pinetown SAPS, where the matter originated,” the officer said.
WMACA Head of Advocacy Luke Lamprecht said the alleged abuse seems to be more prevalent in netball and swimming.
“The profile of the coaches often protects them. The power behind the abuse is secrecy. There is such a sense of discomfort as most of the coaches are men. But we will continue to fight for children who have been silenced by abuse in sport.,” he said.
The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) and Swimming SA did not reply to media queries from Saturday Star about the abuse allegations or questions about whether the bodies face charges for lying to parliament.