Rugby player apologises for Welkom gay bashing

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Divan Cross (right) & his partner, Jaco

The Free State man who was caught on camera bashing a gay hotel manager in a Welkom pub has agreed to publicly apologise for his actions.

In April, we reported that Divan Cross, 32, his partner Jaco and a group of LGBT friends went to a local pub for their weekly karaoke night out.

Just before they left, at around 01:45, Cross walked to the DJ to ask for one last song. He came across two men blocking the passage. He stepped up onto a step and tapped one of the men on the shoulder and asked to be let past.

In the security camera footage, the man is seen turning around and violently shoving Cross backwards off the step and onto the floor, seemingly without any provocation.

Cross said he suffered injuries to his arm, jaw, back, neck and hip as well as trauma and anxiety. He claimed that the incident was motivated by homophobia and that his attacker had been mocking him and his friends.

Cross opened a case of assault against the man, rugby player Fanie Vermaak, 21, which was twice postponed. Earlier this week, following requests from Vermaak’s friends, Cross spoke to his assailant for the first time.

Vermaak apologised and the men agreed to come to a mediated court settlement. On Thursday, they appeared in the Welkom Magistrates’ Court and the matter was resolved in about 15 minutes.

“He admitted guilt by saying that he was drunk and that there was no excuse for his behavior that night. I accepted his apology,” Cross told Mambaonline.

Vermaak also agreed to publish a formal apology in the local newspaper, Vista, next Thursday, and to refund Cross for his medical costs. Failing to do this will result in the case being opened again.

“We shook hands like adults, he even apologised to my partner,” said Cross, who expressed his satisfaction with the outcome.

“I’m relieved that it’s over so that I can put this all behind me. I’m sure he learned his lesson and that he knows that violence is never the answer, even if we have our differences. South Africa is a rainbow nation and there is space for all of us,” said Cross.

He urged anyone who faced a similar situation to stand up for their rights. “We have every right in this world to go places and relax and enjoy ourselves. Maybe this case can encourage someone else someday, to do the same and be heard.”

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