Civil rights group AfriForum had “uncovered” an SMS “showing Absa lied about race in rugby”, executive director Kallie Kriel said on Tuesday.
“The SMS shows that Absa was dishonest when it stated in the media and in a meeting with AfriForum that it does not prescribe racial quotas for the selection of rugby teams and does not put pressure on SA Rugby Union (SARU) to select fewer white players for Currie Cup teams,” Kriel said in a statement.
The statement was headlined, “AfriForum uncovers SMS showing Absa lied about race in rugby”.
Absa spokesperson Ajith Bridgraj said the bank was in the process of drafting a response.
The AfriForum statement came after Absa denied in a report in Rapport newspaper at the weekend that it supported rugby quotas.
Last week, reports surfaced that Absa, sponsor of the Currie Cup, had expressed concern over a lack of transformation in rugby.
This caused AfriForum to launch a “Stop Absa Quotas” campaign, with many people threatening to close their Absa bank accounts.
Absa responded in the Rapport article on Sunday, with deputy chief executive Louis von Zeuner saying: “We have never said a team should include a certain number of players of colour.”
But on Tuesday, Kriel said AfriForum, which was criticised for launching the campaign prematurely, had found evidence contradicting Von Zeuner’s weekend statement.
“The exact wording of the SMS that Louis von Zeuner, deputy chief executive of Absa, sent to the president of SARU, Oregan Hoskins, after the Currie Cup matches played on September 11 is as follows:
‘Regan, I think you should write to the major unions on black players -judging from today’s games Lions 2, Bulls 1, Cheetahs 2 – they are not respecting the spirit and goals of transformation. Louis.’
Kriel said Absa had “since admitted to AfriForum that Von Zeuner sent the mentioned SMS to Hoskins”.
“Hoskins’ threatening letter to provincial rugby unions, in which he insists that fewer white and more black players be selected, was a direct result of the SMS and was sent two days after the SMS.”
Kriel said thousands of members of the public had already shown support for the “Stop Absa Quotas” campaign, which include a petition on their website and the creation of a Facebook page.
“In light of Absa’s lies, AfriForum is intensifying its campaign against Absa…
“If Absa does not apologise in public for its conduct that points to an obsession with race, the public will let their money do the talking against Absa,” said Kriel.
Bridgraj said the bank was aware of the AfriForum statement and that it was in the process of getting an update on the situation.