Ellis Park, South Africa 2001

The Premier Soccer League last night came under attack after 43 people were reported dead at the overcrowded Ellis Park Stadium after watching a game between soccer arch-rivals Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.

The SABC showed scenes of bodies on the pitch covered in blankets, with paramedics trying to resuscitate those injured on stretchers. About 15 bodies were said to be outside the stadium and the death toll was expected to rise.

Emergency helicopters landed in the field to remove injured spectators.

The game, which was stopped after half an hour of the 90 minutes was played, was drawn at 1-1 when the referee took the decision to stop it.

Police fired teargas outside the stadium to disperse a huge number of people gathered outside, who were apparently trying to push into the stadium.

Last night no PSL official could be reached for comment.

People interviewed on SABC criticised the PSL for allowing a game of such magnitude to be played in a small stadium and for selling too many tickets.

Officials' errors 'caused Ellis Park deaths' The Star ( via http://www.iol.co.za/ Independent Online South Africa)By Rapule Tabane

The inquiry into the Ellis Park disaster has heard how a litany of mistakes and errors of judgment could have contributed to the death of 43 soccer spectators.

Ellis Park's general manager George Stainton on Tuesday painted a picture of the preparations for the Kaiser Chiefs and Orlando Pirates game at the commission chaired by Judge Bernard Ngoepe.

Evidence leader Kevin Atwell pointed out that as early as October 1998 a meeting was held with Ellis Park management and the Jeppe Police. This followed mayhem at a Chiefs/ Pirates game that month when fans rushed for tickets minutes before the game. Police had to use rubber bullets to quell a riot. And at the meeting a warning was issued that a repeat situation could occur.

This meeting also highlighted that:

Stainton said he was not aware of this previous meeting but admitted that soccer tickets were unreserved - unlike those for rugby where fans are allocated seats.

He said it was a practice he inherited when he joined as Ellis Park manager in February this year.

"I did not believe that unreserved seats caused problems because they allow fans to sit wherever they want".

He also revealed several problems in the planning run-up of the tragic April 11 game.

Stainton said he had initially underestimated attendance at the match but had changed his projection a few days before the match after the league log had changed. The match looked academic at the beginning but dimensions had changed the weekend before when Chiefs picked up points and Pirates dropped them, making the upcoming match crucial for log standings.

Meanwhile, the commission remained firm that it would not provide transport and accommodation financial assistance to survivors and families of the deceased in the tragedy, unless they are witnesses.

Spokesperson Tessie Bezuidenhout said the commission had never promised to finance anyone.

"We cannot use the taxpayers's money to finance people to attend the hearing. The families were notified as a gesture of courtesy," she said.

On Tuesday evening Kaizer Chiefs supporter Saddam Maake was still trying to find overnight accommodation for family members who come from as far as Thohoyandou, Vryburg and Zebediela.

The Ngoepe Commission which was appointed by President Thabo Mbeki to investigate the cause of the stampede and make recommendations to avoid a similar occurrence in the future continues on Wednesday.

'We were muzzled' say Ellis Park survivors 15th July 2001

By Themba wa Sepotokele and Lynne Altenroxel

The commission of inquiry into the Ellis Park soccer disaster, which was due to start on Monday, has received two complaints from survivors that they had been barred from making submissions.

Tessie Bezuidenhout, secretary of the judicial commission of inquiry, said on Sunday night tg that the commission had received sworn affidavits from two survivors, claiming they had been prevented from making submissions to, or even attending, the inquiry by staffers of the disaster fund.

The fund was set up by the Professional Soccer League after the April 11 disaster, in which 43 people died and more than 100 were injured.

The inquiry, scheduled to begin at the Johannesburg High Court on Monday, was set up by the government to find out what happened on that fateful night, and to identify mechanisms to prevent such tragedies in future.

PSL chair Robin Petersen said: "There was no truth in those allegations. If we find out that someone acted in such a manner, we will treat it (the case) in a severe manner. We are as eager as the public to know what went wrong."

Sport and Recreation Ministry spokesperson Graham Abrahams said the issue fell outside the ministry's jurisdiction.

"That issue has been dealt with by the department of justice. The commission is linked to the department of justice."

Justice department spokesperson Paul Setsetse was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

Meanwhile, victims of the stampede are still waiting for widely expected compensation.

The families of the 43 people who died were paid R15 000 shortly after the stampede but there have been no further payments to date.

There appears to be confusion over who is responsible for paying the medical expenses which victims have incurred.

People such as Ntibaleng Ramosa, who witnessed the death of his cousin Rakgabo Shongoane that night, has finally started paying medical bills himself after being threatened with a credit blacklisting.

"Why are our medical bills not paid as promised?" he asked.

According to Petersen, compensation can be expected only once liability insurance is paid out, which would not happen until the commission of inquiry was finalised.

Delays in payouts from the trust, he added, resulted from delays in registering it for tax exemption at the South African Revenue Service, which took three months.

Now that the trust was officially up and running - since this month - trustees could finally start making decisions about who receives payment.

According to Petersen, there is also no guarantee that victims who submit claims will be fully compensated from the trust fund, which stands at about R1-million, with a further R600 000 in pledges.

But even here there is confusion. According to crisis committee head Sunnyboy Mmatli, submissions for claims closed on June 19 to prevent fraudulent applications.

"The only people we're dealing with are those who are already on file," said Mmatli.

With R1,6-million available to divide among the families of the 43 deceased and about 100 people who were injured, there is not that much money to hand out anyway.

'Teargas is the scourge of African football' May 11th 2001

Teargas, described as "the scourge of African football'', has led to the deaths of hundreds of fans in Africa.

Survivors of Ghana's soccer stampede are blaming security forces for firing teargas in the packed stadium. Many of the 126 killed were crushed to death, while others died of suffocation in the scramble to escape from the teargas.

In Accra on Thursday, a mob attacked a police station, apparently bent on revenge because of Wednesday's stampede. Police fired shots in the air to drive off the crowd.

The six officers who were in command at the stadium will be investigated over their role in the stampede after the match between Ghana's biggest soccer teams degenerated into the third worst soccer disaster of modern times.

South African police said that in this country, teargas is not used as a means of crowd control at matches.

"Our policy does not allow the use of teargas for crowd control at stadiums. We will use shields to get in between people or separate people. It is ridiculous to use teargas. It is not part of our operational procedure," said Selby Bokaba, spokesperson for national police commissioner Jackie Selebi.

Police have dismissed as unfounded allegations that they used teargas at Ellis Park stadium last month when 43 fans were trampled to death in a stampede.

TV and radio commentator Mark Gleeson has said the wanton use of teargas is "the scourge of African football".

"There was absolutely no need for police to throw teargas canisters into the crowd, and there was no reason for the gates to remain locked after the match,'' said Harry Zakour, an official with the Hearts of Oak.

"The African football fan is merely a commodity," Gleeson said on Wednesday after the latest soccer tragedy.

"They take his money at the gate and leave him to his own devices in the stands. The issue of safety and security is not on the agenda."

Soccer's governing body Fifa warned that Africa's suitability to stage the World Cup finals depended on it improving stadium safety, after a string of tragedies that have claimed nearly 200 lives.

"While Hillsborough led ultimately to changes in stadium design and a trouble-free Euro 96 in England, and the Bastia tragedy of 1992 prompted tighter restrictions on temporary grandstands and a safe France 98, there is disturbing evidence to indicate that the lessons are apparently not being learnt everywhere," Fifa president Sepp Blatter said.

In an advance copy of his column in the most recent issue of Fifa News, Blatter wrote: "The disasters at Johannesburg's Ellis Park some weeks ago and more recently in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran and Ghana brought chilling reminders of incidents in recent years, not least the Hillsborough tragedy of 1989."

"The parallels between these incidents were too striking to be ignored," Blatter said.

On Thursday, his spokesperson, Markus Siegler, said from Zurich that the Ghana tragedy would have no bearing on the decision to stage the 2010 World Cup in Africa. "The next World Cup after 2006 will be organised in Africa despite these tragic events. Events like this happen everywhere," he said.

At least 126 people were killed in a stampede in Ghana after rioting by fans of Asante Kotoko, whose team had gone 2-1 behind in a league match against champions and arch-rivals Hearts of Oak.

SA Football Association chief executive Danny Jordaan, speaking from London, said: "It is a worldwide phenomenon but almost always gets blown out of proportion when it occurs in Africa.

"The issue of safety around stadiums is a fundamental priority for the organisation of any event. Ghana, SA or any other African country wishing to host the 2010 World Cup finals cannot wait until 2010 before taking action regarding safety at stadiums."

Soccer probe hears more startling revelations

July 18 2001
By Antoinette Keyser

Ellis Park general manager George Stainton admitted on Wednesday that the fateful April soccer match between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates should not have started according to Fifa rules.

Testifying before the commission of inquiry into the stampede which left 43 people dead and hundreds injured, Stainton admitted he had been aware of Fifa rules that a soccer match should not start unless the crowds inside and outside the stadium were under control.

Despite this, the match started on time at 8pm while thousands of spectators were still streaming into the stadium and beginning to break down fences and gates to gain entry.

Stainton said the rush by fans to enter the stadium began about an hour before kick-off. The gates at the south-east of the stadium had to be closed and police reinforcements were called in when people breached the fence and pelted security officials with bricks and bottles.

A group of fans also forced a gate on the western side of the stadium, but were removed by police.

Stainton said as far as he knew the match referee had no means of communicating with Premier Soccer League officials and would not have been aware of the security situation at the time the match was to have started.

Ten minutes into the game Stainton was summoned to the north-east corner of the stadium. When he arrived, he found a pile of bodies at the top of the stand. He said he helped to carry bodies and injured people down to the pitch.

At no time, however, did he consider that the game should have been stopped. He said stopping the game would just have frustrated and annoyed the crowd.

Only when the gangway on the north-east corner had been cleared and the dead and injured removed, did he decide to stop the game. This was done in consultation with PSL officials.

Stainton said the crowd became restive, and he ordered Ellis Park employees to put visuals of the dead and injured people on the big screen.

"That shocked the people into submission."

At that stage ambulances were ferrying the injured to the medical centre on the premises. The disaster management team alerted nearby hospitals and requested more ambulances.

According to a log drawn up by an official of Wolf Security in the operations centre on the north side of the stadium, trouble started just before 7pm at the north east gates. The situation grew worse and a log entry around 7.40pm said there was "total chaos" with gates and fencing being broken down.

The game was eventually stopped around 8.30pm and the stadium cleared of spectators around 10pm.

Commission chairperson Judge Bernard Ngoepe adjourned Wednesday's hearing when Stainton complained of feeling dizzy. He will continue giving evidence on Thursday. - Sapa