By Everson Luhanga

Can a convicted criminal be allowed to fly the South African flag by wearing the national colours?

This is the dilemma that has been brought to the South African Football Association after the conviction of Bafana Bafana star player Tembinkosi Lorch for beating his girlfriend in 2020.

His conviction for assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm is a serious offence in South Africa with a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

Presumed innocent until proven guilty, the popular striker has been playing for Bafana and the Buccaneers for the past three years despite a police investigation and later a trial at the Randburg Magistrates Court.

On Tuesday, the court made it clear that no one is above the law by convicting Lorch for the assault on his girlfriend.

Lorch will be sentenced on 28 July in the same court.


The 2019 PSL Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season will be the first in recent years to be convicted by a court of law.

Lorch’s case relates to a complaint laid with the Midrand police by his girlfriend in September 2020 that resulted in his arrest and subsequent release on bail of R2,000.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said Lorch was arrested on 7 September 2020. 

His girlfriend Fundiswa Nokuphiwa Mathithibala said she was visiting Lorch when he left her at his home to go out with his friend.

Mathithibala saw that it was getting late and messaged him to return her car keys. “On arrival, an argument ensued and Lorch became violent towards her and started to strangle and beat her while pulling her up and down,” said Mjonondwane.

It is not clear whether Lorch will serve time or get away with a slap on the wrist but many soccer stars have been able to avoid jail time.

Zambia international and former Pirates forward Justin Shonga was arrested in Midrand in May 2020 for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend.. 

In 2018 Andile Jali was arrested for allegedly assaulting his wife Nonhle Ndala. 

In 2017 George Lebese was accused of assault and malicious damage to property after he allegedly got into an altercation with his girlfriend. The case was later withdrawn.

The same year, Thabo Rakhale, then an Orlando Pirates player, was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend.

Rakhale’s case was heard in the Vereeniging Magistrate’s Court before the victim withdrew charges against him.

Pictured above: Thembinkosi Lorch in full flight on the soccer field

Picture credit: @OrlandoPirates

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