Controversy over Bucs’ fielding of GBV convicted Lorch
Striker awaits sentencing for assaulting ex-lover
The appearance of Thembinkosi Lorch in the Orlando Pirates lineup for the first time this season caused a stir as the midfielder awaits sentencing regarding a gender-based violence (GBV) case for which he was convicted.
Lorch, who was found guilty by the Randburg magistrate’s court in June for assaulting his ex-girlfriend Fundiswa Mathithibala, returned to the Pirates lineup and was named man of the match – pocketing a cool R100,000 – as the Buccaneers beat Cape Town Spurs 2-0 in the Carling Knockout opening round.
But his reappearance on the field was not without controversy, with some feeling Pirates should have barred him just like certain prominent clubs did with their players who were accused of similar crimes, while others felt stopping him from playing would infringe on his rights.
“It is concerning that Orlando Pirates, who in the past committed to fight the scourge of GBV on numerous occasions, saw it fit to field a player who has been convicted as a perpetrator of GBV. This calls to question their commitment to end the scourge,” said Sonke Gender Justice co-executive director Bafana Khumalo.
A fortnight ago, Lorch’s sentencing was postponed for November 21. It was the third time that it was postponed.
Khumalo expressed concern about the delay in sentencing the footballer, implying that it may be because of Lorch’s social status. “We understand that Lorch’s matter is awaiting sentence and it is concerning that the court is taking so long to hand down the sentence. It sends the wrong message that justice is not blind and it depends on your status,” Khumalo said.
Meanwhile, NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane told Sowetan that Lorch’s criminal case had nothing to do with his employment with Pirates. “Remember, his soccer career is his employment, so a court cannot say a person cannot work. The criminal case has nothing to do with his employment with Pirates,” Mjonondwane said.
Labour law analyst Natasha Moni also emphasised there was nothing wrong with Pirates fielding Lorch, albeit admitting Bucs’ decision could prove detrimental to their reputation as it would appear “they are okay with GBV”.
“As long as he is out on bail and he is not doing anything in terms of breaching the terms of his bail, he can still work. You have that freedom,” Moni said.
“I’d imagine there’s nothing really to stop him from playing although it’s a reputational risk for the club. But to stop him from working is against his fundamental rights.”
Some players accused of GBV
While Pirates have fielded Lorch, despite being found guilty of assaulting his girlfriend Mathithibala, in Europe it’s a somewhat different story as players who are allegedly GBV perpetrators have been sidelined.
Just two weeks ago, German giants Bayern Munich decided against re-signing experienced defender Jerome Boateng after fans and rights groups threatened to boycott their games if they re-sign the German international, owing to his ongoing domestic violence case. In September 2021, Boateng was found guilty of assaulting his girlfriend.
In September, Manchester United gave Brazilian winger Antony leave of absence after his girlfriend levelled a case of assault against him. Antony returned to training two weeks later after a voluntary interview with police. He’s kept under review, pending further developments in the case.
After the court dropped all charges against Mason Greenwood in August 2022, Manchester United still decided that the 21-year-old will never play for the club again. Greenwood was initially charged with attempted rape, engaging in controlling behaviour and assault of his girlfriend. The talented attacker ended up joining Spanish side Getafe on loan from United last month.
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