Message of condolence at the Ellis Park Stadium
15 April 2001
I would like to welcome the families of the deceased, our religious leaders, leaders of our sports teams, of the football association, of the professional soccer league, members and supporters of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, Mayor of the Greater Joha nnesburg, Ministers and friends.
All of us wish that we were not here today. In particular, the bereaved families wish they were not here today because none of us wanted the people who died on Wednesday to have died.
Sport celebrates life. Sport celebrates health. It celebrates intelligence and skill. It is an occupation of joy, an occupation of entertainment, an occupation of self-fulfilment.
Those who succeed among our sports men and women are heroes and heroines of our people. Sports competitions are not a place of death.
Too many in our country die from unnatural causes. They die from crime, road accidents, and they die at places of work. Too many die from unnatural causes. We should not add to that by having people die at places of celebrations and at the places of celebr ation of life, such as our sports competitions. On behalf of the government and of all our people, I would like to convey our condolences to the bereaved families, to the friends of the bereaved, to say, we all share this terrible burden that they carry, a nd to give sympathies to those who were injured. We trust the fact that you know that the whole country and the whole world is with you at this moment of grief and will make your burden a little lighter.
Many in the world have been sending us messages of support because they too grieve as the people of South Africa grieve. I will read you one message, which is representative of the messages we are getting from around the world. It is from the Prime Ministe r of France, and it says, " It is with a deep emotion that I have heard the news of the tragic accident which yesterday has plunged your country in mourning. The Ellis Park Stadium dedicated to sports achievements and to meeting between people became a pla ce of suffering and sadness. In this adversity, I wish to tell you in my own name and in the name of the French government about my sympathies. I would be obliged if you could convey my sincere condolences to the families and relatives of the victims". The Prime Minister of France has signed it, and as I have said, it is representative of many messages that we are getting from around the world.
On Thursday we received the credentials of a number of ambassadors, including the ambassador of China. After we had received those credentials, the ambassador of China passed on to us a sum of R10 000 which has been collected by the members of staff at the Chinese Embassy, to say, these diplomats from very far away want to carry this burden together with the people of South Africa.
I would like to say thank you to the people of the world for those messages of solidarity. I would also like to say thank you very much to the rugby players because in all the Super 12 rugby matches that have been played since this tragic accident, the rug by players of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa have observed the moment of silence to honour our fallen people. The Judge President of this division, Judge Bernard Ngoepe was kind to accept that he should in person conduct the inquiry into this trag edy. We must await the outcome of this inquiry, which is not focused on seeking to blame, but focused on ensuring that we do not have this tragedy again. It should focus at ensuring that we continue to occupy this proud place in soccer, according to which, for a succession of years, FIFA has placed South Africa among the top 20 soccer nations of the world. To stay in that position, also means that we have to take care of the safety of the soccer fans. The examples of support that have been given to us by th e rest of the world, we too as South Africans, must follow.
We must rally together and help. Your government will contribute what it can to that effort.
Once more, condolences to the bereaved families.
Thank you very much.