Cape Town - Orlando Pirates have responded sternly to an Sowetan article written about the funeral of Senzo Meyiwa.
The club's management for displeased with the article which suggested the funeral was chaotic and boring and characterised by "unruly soccer fans who sang throughout most of ... long speeches".
The club also hit back at claims that Irvine Khoza was "angered" by the Kaizer Chiefs captain and players following a breach of protocol during the event, which was described in the statement as "unfortunate".
Orlando Pirates said the Sowetan were "mischievous" to suggest Khoza was angry and "especially angered by the Kaizer Chiefs captain and players".
The article also ran quotes from Meyiwa's aunt, Thandi Miya, which said the late goalkeeper and captain was "ill-treated by a top official of Orlando Pirates" which Orlando Pirates sought clarity from Meyiwa's father about and which Meyiwa's father has "distanced the Meyiwa family from the utterances the Sowetan attributed to Thandi Miya and his family".
The following statement was released on the club's website:
"The Orlando Pirates Football Club management is saddened and disappointed to wake up to a Sowetan article that purports a dignified and well attended funeral of our departed team captain Senzo Meyiwa as chaotic and boring, characterised by "unruly soccer fans who sang throughout most of ... long speeches". The article also seek to purport Dr Khoza's intervention on a matter of protocol as an action against the Kaizer Chiefs captain and players. The article further quotes a Thandi Miya, aunt of Senzo that is supposed to have told shocked mourners on Thursday about Senzo being "ill-treated by a top official of Orlando Pirates".
The Orlando Pirates Football Club is hereby putting on record the sequence of events that led to the Chairman, Dr Khoza requesting the priest that was acting as the Programme Director at the graveyard, to announce the protocol in keeping with what had been agreed earlier when he approached Dr Khoza to seek clarity.
At the beginning of the graveyard part of the funeral, the presiding priest acting as the Programme Director approached Dr Khoza to verify the protocol that Dr Khoza confirmed as - family first, followed by Minister and Premier, Deputy Minister and Mayor; football leadership - Dr Jordaan, Dr Khoza and Mr Motsepe, followed by the players. The priests unfortunately omitted to announce the protocol as agreed. Unaware of the protocol some official signalled to the Kaizer Chiefs players to come forward from the tent where they were seated to come pay their last respect through pouring of soil into the grave. When Dr Khoza noticed this occurrence he consulted and concurred with the Minister and Premier that it needed to be corrected. He quietly went to the priest to remind him to announce the protocol agreed. At no stage did Dr Khoza "lose it" or "throw a tantrum" as the article states.
The article singles out Kaizer Chiefs players in a manner suggesting Dr Khoza was "angered" by the Kaizer Chiefs captain and players. We find this deliberately mischievous as, by the time the presiding priest announced the protocol to be followed, both the Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates players were around the grave paying the last respect.
"It is mischievous to suggest I was angry and especially angered by the Kaizer Chiefs captain and players. I am particularly pleased by the role played by Kaizer Chiefs in the dignified burial of Senzo Meyiwa. I view Kaizer Chiefs players, all players for that matter, as children that I must play my role in nurturing (nge sintu children cannot pour soil into the grave before the elders). The rivalry the Sowetan article refers to must exist in the journalist's mischievous head. The Kaizer Chiefs captain, Itumeleng Khune was one of the first people to arrive at the hospital after Senzo was admitted. At the graveyard he came to greet Minister Fikile Mbalula, Premier Senzo Mchunu, myself, the family, Dr Danny Jordaan and Mr Patrice Motsepe. I have no issue with Itumeleng's manners as they are impeccable" commented Dr Khoza.
"This unfortunate incident would not have occurred had the priest acting as the Programme Director announced the agreed protocol. I am disappointed that this article was written in the Sowetan. This is a paper best placed to uphold isintu. It should also know that the rivalry between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs is restricted to the field play. If the journalist was not obsessed with not letting the facts stand in the way of his mischievous story, he would have heard that the Chairman of Kaizer Chiefs spoke about Senzo Meyiwa as if he was his son and player in his own club.", added Dr Khoza.
Dr Khoza contacted the News Editor of the Sowetan Mr Ledwaba to seek clarity on Thandi Miya and the occasion she made utterances quoted by the Sowetan. In their conversation Mr Ledwaba regretted the sensational and untruthful portrayal of Dr Khoza's intervention. Dr Khoza consulted and concurred with both the Minister and Premier to circumvent the football fraternity from seemingly disrespecting the Minister, Premier and Mayor at a provincial official funeral.
Dr Khoza contacted Senzo Meyiwa's father who distanced the Meyiwa family from the utterances the Sowetan attributed to Thandi Miya and his family.
The Orlando Pirates Football Club is following up on the utterances attributed to a person referred to in the article as an aunt of Senzo Meyiwa, alleging that an Orlando Pirates official ill-treated Senzo Meyiwa."