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Thu Apr 24 14:37:49 SAST 2014

'Sons' in shock over Roebuck

SUTHENTIRA GOVENDER and ROWAN PHILP | 20 November, 2011 11:471 Comments
A portrait of Peter Roebuck in the colours of Somerset in May 1981
Image by: Adrian Murrell / Allsport

Peter Roebuck's "adopted sons" at his sprawling adult orphanage in KwaZulu-Natal call him a saint.

But in Cape Town a Zimbabwean man says he was an evil sex predator.

Roebuck, 55, described as cricket's premier journalist by Australian legend Steve Waugh, and by others as the greatest cricket writer of his generation, was this week revealed to be as much of a mystery as the circumstances of his apparent suicide last Saturday.

The English-born journalist leapt, or fell, to his death from his Cape Town hotel room while being questioned by police, allegedly over a sexual assault complaint.

Roebuck wrote a foreword to Silence of the Heart in 1990 - a book about suicide in cricket - in which he said colleagues predicted he would one day end his own life. But he wrote: "It will not be so."

Zimbabwean student Itai Gondo, 26, this week told UK tabloid The Sun that Roebuck lured him to his room at the Southern Sun Hotel in Newlands, pinned him to a bed and attempted to sexually assault him.

Gondo claimed Roebuck had SMSed him: "OK my boy, bring stick in case I need to beat you!" Later he allegedly sent another saying: "Worried bout u, hope u ok."

An English court convicted Roebuck in 2001 of assaulting three young SA men by caning their buttocks. The judge said: "It seems so unusual that it must have been done to satisfy some need in you."

But one of several young Zimbabwean men whom Roebuck supported in South Africa, Tatenda Chadya, said this week the sex assault claim was unbelievable. "He just wanted to see people's dreams come true. He was a father to us."

Chadya, 24, is one of 16 students Roebuck took into his home in Pietermaritzburg. Colleagues said he spent most winters there but lived in Sydney in summer.

Roebuck's four dogs and old Honda Ballade were this week still at "Straw Hat Farm" - named for his tatty, trademark headgear. Friends said he had rejected materialism, "pecking orders" and "snobbery" since attending an elite boys' boarding school in England.

The first Zimbabwean he mentored, Psychology Maziwisa, said this week in a tribute that the writer had spent up to R4-million of his own money to support 35 poor Zimbabwean youths.

Roebuck and he recently parted ways because Maziwisa - who became a lawyer with Roebuck's help - started working for Robert Mugabe's government. He reportedly told Maziwisa: "I want to be credited for having raised a Mandela, not a Mugabe."

The cricketer said Mugabe's Zanu-PF was "a party that I hold responsible for mass murder ".

Andrew Dickason, a former caretaker at Roebuck's house, said: "All of us are shocked and saddened. He was a really nice guy, his kindness was an inspiration."

Roebuck famously feuded with former England cricket captain Ian Botham, who once called him a "Judas" and "a very strange person".

Henk Lindeque, 31, was one of the three South Africans Roebuck assaulted with a cane in 1999, when they failed to abide by his house rules as 19-year-olds. Lindeque told the Daily Telegraph he was saddened by the death of "a brilliant mind".

Describing one of the incidents for which Roebuck received a suspended sentence, Lindeque said: "After he caned me he wanted to have a look at the markings and that wasn't something I approved of."

As glowing tributes poured in from shocked sports figures, friends admitted that "it is doubtful if anyone on earth knew him [well]."

Roebuck's estranged family of five siblings and a mother want to bury him in England, a country he bitterly rejected. Chadya said the family wanted him to be buried alongside his father, who once described his son as "an unconventional loner".

Colonel Vishnu Naidoo, spokesman for the SAPS, said no foul play was suspected in Roebuck's death and an inquest would be held. He would neither confirm nor deny allegations of sexual assault.

Gondo reportedly went to police at the urging of his girlfriend.

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'Sons' in shock over Roebuck

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Thu Apr 24 14:37:49 SAST 2014 ::

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