The club practicing at Donkin Reserve
The LGBTI touch rugby club in Nelson Mandela Bay that was barred from playing at a municipal park has been asked to return by the mayor’s office.
Last week, Mambaonline reported that the NMB LGBTI Touch Rugby club’s practice session at the Donkin Reserve in Port Elizabeth ended in disappointment when an official ordered the five players to leave.
There was no signage indicating that an informal get-together of this sort was forbidden and another group playing soccer was allowed to continue to do so.
The club was also not given a consistent or clear reason why they couldn’t play at the venue and claimed to have been stonewalled by the municipality when trying to find another suitable public area.
While Cameron Cordell, from the OUT!ology Network, who founded the group, said he didn’t experience overt homophobia, he was puzzled at the disinterest and lack of support from the municipality for the LGBTI community club.
On Tuesday, after having to repeatedly defend the club’s stance on social media (including criticism from some councillors), Cordell was surprised to receive an apologetic letter from the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Kristoff Adelbert.
In it, Adelbert admitted that the by-laws “don’t necessarily apply to an informal, small sports gathering such as the one you organise, especially if there is no sign indicating prohibitions etc.”
He went on to “invite you and your sporting colleagues back to the Donkin Reserve to continue playing touch rugby,” adding that, “we will engage with the relevant security guards/officials to ensure that this decision is conveyed without any doubt.”
Adelbert stated that the municipality “encourages participation in healthy, recreational sporting activities and wishes to place it on the record that it is our intention to ensure that open spaces are used productively, for the enjoyment of all residents”.
He concluded: “I apologise for the inconvenience.”
A happy Cordell thanked Adelbert for quickly resolving the matter once he became aware of the situation.
“We are just glad that we are able to come to a reconciliation with the municipality, and to receive a sincere apology for the removal,” said Cordell.
“As I have consistently stated, we want to work with the municipality and not against it, and this is a great step in the right direction for the development and uplifting of the LGBTI community throughout Nelson Mandela Bay.”
Cordell couldn’t immediately confirm if the club would return to Donkin Reserve. After being turned away by the municipality, Kemsley Park, a private rugby ground, offered the group its venue to practice at.
Cordell said he planned to canvas the views of his organisation and the other members of the club on the issue. “Personally, I really hope we return as it is the perfect, safe and accessible venue for our project,” he said.