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City rugby legend and former ward councillor dies


It was his passion for rugby and uncompromising stance on transformation in the game that would be his lasting legacy.

Desmond Pitt.

DESMOND Pitt, an iconic figure among South Africa’s rugby fraternity, former ward councillor, husband and father of four, died peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of Saturday morning. He was 71 years old.

While news of Pitt’s death has been met by an outpouring of condolences and the recollection of fond memories on social media, his only son, Arnold, said yesterday that he would remember his father as a man of principal, who loved his sport and was able to combine these traits to touch the lives of many residents of Kimberley.

Pitt was employed at the municipality’s electrical department and also served as a DA councillor in Ward 20 over the years.

Arnold believes that it was his father’s passion for rugby and uncompromising stance on transformation in the game that would be his lasting legacy.

“Everyone knew my father as a very straightforward person and I will always remember him as a man of principle,” Arnold said yesterday. “Throughout his life, sport, particularly rugby, played a major role and while it was not an interest that we shared, I know it was very important to him. I know he made a valuable contribution to both the sport and local players.”

In 1980, Gregory Bestenbier started his apprenticeship under Pitt at the Kimberley Municipality.

“He (Pitt) did not suffer fools gladly and I was a sensitive kid who did not like being spoken to in a loud voice,” Bestenbier recalled. “Later, I found that beneath the carefully cultivated abrasive exterior Des Pitt had a soft, golden, marshmallow heart.”

Pitt had a lifelong association with Universal Rugby Club, where his father was the chairman, a position he later held following his days as a player.

In this position at the club, Bestenbier recalled Pitt as a stickler for discipline and decorum, adding that nobody would have dared to attend a club meeting without jacket and tie.

“After his playing days he took up refereeing,” he added. “It was a thankless and often dangerous contribution but he persevered.

“His no-nonsense attitude prevailed on the field. When his interpretation of the laws was challenged by a bemused captain he would offer to buy the poor guy a rule book after the game. Alternatively, he would advance the penalty mark by 20 very long metres.”

As a referee, Pitt was recognised at provincial level and received national honours when he refereed the last Saru (SACOS) SA Cup final before unification in 1992.

“Those of us who regularly visited Kimberley remember our interactions with a man who was passionate about refereeing,” read a post on the WP Referees’ Facebook page. “Our condolences to the Griquas Referees Society, Griquas Rugby Union and all legendary South African referees who roamed the fields with Mr Pitt.”

Pitt’s memorial service will be held at the Potter’s Hands Church in Diebel Street at 5.30pm today, while his funeral will be at CRC at 11am on Saturday.