Rathbone’s grandmother in political storm

Violet Rathbone, the 80-year-old grandmother of former South African Under-21 captain and current Wallaby Clyde Rathbone is embroiled in political controversy in South Africa.

Mrs Rathbone has hit front-page news concerning a letter she wrote to Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon, which has been made public in South African parliament.

Mrs Rathbone, who emigrated to South Africa from Australia as a child, returned to her country of birth last week owing to concerns of rising crime levels in South Africa.

As a result, she has come under stinging criticism from South African Defence Minister Mosiua Lekota.

On August 25, 2004, Violet’s daughter-in-law Glynis – Clyde’s mother – was lucky to survive after being thrown over the balcony of her home one night by an intruder.

She was hospitalised with five broken ribs, a fractured hand and lacerations to her foot.

She and her husband remained in South Africa for another two years before settling in Canberra, the city where their son, Brumbies winger Clyde lives.

Lekota, speaking to the Independent Newspaper Group, has come out in heavy criticism of emigrants who have left the country citing crime as their reason.

He has branded them “crime-whingers” and has given Violet Rathbone as a specific example.

Lekota has questioned her motives, wondering if her reason was really crime, or the fact that “white people were still in law” in Australia.

Lekota was quoted in The Star saying: “Her black counterparts who are 80, who did not have rights before now, have rights like herself. She leaves and goes to a country like that.

“Why shouldn’t I or anybody else wonder: is she really leaving because of crime, or is she leaving because maybe she is trying to enjoy a status in which she is better than other sections of the population? Why should I not ask that question?

“What is it Mrs Rathbone will get in Australia that she cannot get in this country? What is it that we are doing to whites to justify her saying, ‘No, I am better off in Australia’, save that Australia has the situation in which whites are the law, and blacks there are what they are.”

Mrs Rathbone’s niece, Cecilia Russell defended her aunt in The Star, writing, “She loved this country.”

Russell also quoted her aunt’s letter which stated that she would “always love South Africa and will never run it down.

“I hope and pray… that the government will do all in its power to fight the rampant crime in South Africa at the moment.”

Russell then pondered whether Lekota “could really be talking about my Aunty Vi”.

“The truth is that circumstances – and crime – meant that she chose to join her family in Australia, the country of her birth.”

365 Digital

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