Ellis Park inquiry resumes on Tuesday - Kaizer Chiefs FC
Ellis Park inquiry resumes on Tuesday

Posted in News on Oct 21, 2001.

A public inquiry into South Africa's worst sporting disaster will resume on Tuesday after over a month with more eye-witness accounts of the Ellis Park disaster which left 43 soccer fans dead, a commission official said on Monday.

The hearings began in July and adjourned on September 13. Observers expect it to deliver a tough verdict on the way the sport is conducted in the country.

Forty-three people died and more than 100 were injured at Johannesburg's Ellis Park Stadium on April 11 when an estimated 75,000 fans tried to cram into a 60,000-seat venue for a match between Orlando Pirates and arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs.

The investigating commission, overseen by High Court Judge Bernard Ngoepe, was expected to complete its work by the end of this year. But the large number of witnesses seeking to testify has cast doubts on whether the deadline will be met. "It is very difficult to say when the commission will finish...It depends on how many witnesses there are," a spokesperson for the commission told Reuters.

"We are still calling our witnesses and after that most probably people from SAFA (South African Football Association) and the PSL (Premier Soccer League) will come and testify," the spokesperson said.

Officials from SAFA -- which takes care of football matters in the country -- and the PSL -- which runs the professional league -- have yet to take the stand.

The hearings were scheduled to resume on Monday at Johannesburg's High Court, but were postponed to Tuesday when the venue will shift to Pretoria.

Twenty-three people have given testimony since the hearings began, and some have alleged that tear gas was fired into the crowd, which panicked spectators and triggered the stampede.

But police and stadium security personnel have denied that any tear gas was used.

Another issue has been the level of security at the stadium, and whether FIFA's basic rules regarding safety at football matches were followed.

Witnesses have told the inquiry that fans broke down fences and forced their way into the stadium, overwhelming police and security personnel.

Former league officials have criticised the poor state of soccer facilities in the country, including Ellis Park, which has been faulted for being too small for major soccer matches.

South Africa had been expected to secure the hosting of the 2006 World Cup but lost out narrowly to Germany. They are bidding again to stage the 2010 World Cup and are favourites although it is by no means a foregone conclusion that they will succeed.

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