Ellis Park hearings to start soon

Public hearings into the deaths of 43 South African soccer fans in the country’s worst sporting disaster will begin in Johannesburg on July 16, the judge overseeing the inquiry said on Thursday.

Testimony from spectators and soccer officials who witnessed the fatal crush outside Johannesburg’s Ellis Park stadium on April 11 will be heard.

“The objective is to find out what happened that night, what events led to the disaster and what measures can be taken to prevent a similar occurrence,” High Court Judge Bernard Ngoepe told reporters.

Forty-three people died and more than 100 were injured in the crush as an estimated 75 000 spectators tried to cram into into a stadium with a 60 000 capacity.

Soccer managers and analysts have blamed the deaths on poor crowd control, shoddy match organisation and greed.

Sports Minister Ngconde Balfour has said he does not expect the disaster to affect the country’s bid to host the 2010 World Cup, which has been promised to Africa.

The hearings will last two weeks and will resume on August 20 after an adjournment.