In memoriam: A floral tribute on the Ellis Park pitch the day after 43 people lost their lives in a stampede. Picture: REUTERS
In memoriam: A floral tribute on the Ellis Park pitch the day after 43 people lost their lives in a stampede. Picture: REUTERS

Premier Soccer League (PSL) chair Irvin Khoza has confirmed that the league has not planned anything significant to mark Thursday’s 18th anniversary of the Ellis Park disaster.

Forty-three supporters died and more than 150 were injured in crushes at Ellis Park on April 11 2001 during a Soweto derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs‚ as people poured into a stadium that was already filled  to capacity. It was SA’s biggest stadium disaster.

In the Orkney disaster of 1991‚ 42 supporters died as a result of an overfull Oppenheimer Stadium‚ where a crowd of 30‚000 was present but the ground had a capacity of 23‚000 at a preseason friendly between Chiefs and Pirates.

“There was a press conference that was held at the stadium some time back where we made a commitment to give the families some space to grieve‚” Khoza said.

“The Ellis Park disaster is an emotional one and we have not abandoned it, but we did make a statement that we have done our part and that we did not give the families the chance to grieve.

“There is nothing stopping the two clubs from doing something but we have a challenge of the Klerksdorp [Orkney] disaster because we don’t want to prioritise one over the other.

“There is nothing stopping us from doing something and we must also remind the supporters that it is very important to arrive on time at the stadium.

“What happened at the match of Pirates and Chiefs at the Carling Cup [two supporters died ahead of the July 2017 preseason friendly]‚ something happened where we thought that it was late-coming [by fans] but there are organised gangs without tickets who target certain games. That matter could come up if the commission is going to take place.”

Sports minister Tokozile Xasa has called off a ministerial commission of inquiry into the incident at the 2017 Carling Black Label Cup that saw 21 people injured‚ but may reinstate it.

Khoza said the door is not closed on remembering the people who lost their lives in the Ellis Park disaster. “It is only fair that we remember the people who died and if the families want us to join them in terms of remembrance it will make it easier for everybody‚ but some families want to do it separately.

“It is not only my decision but of my co-chairman Mr Kaizer Motaung [Chiefs’ chair] as he was part of that press conference at Ellis Park.”