CAPE TOWN – Ashwin Willemse says he understands the magnitude of his decision to walk off a SuperSport set and the fall-out from it since, and wants to “restore his dignity”.
And he adds that the “legitimate pain” that ordinary people feel on a daily basis is something worth challenging.
That is part of the reason why he has now opted to be part of the subsequent process proposed by SuperSport to hand the matter over to the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).
Willemse was interviewed by Eusebius McKaiser on Radio 702 on Tuesday, where he spoke about his early days in getting out of gangsterism, his playing career, and his walkout from the SuperSport studios on May 19 after stating that fellow pundits Nick Mallett and Naas Botha had undermined and patronised him.
The former Springbok wing again stated on Tuesday that the “incident was rooted in racism”, and now he hopes to make his case at the Human Rights Commission.
SuperSport’s investigation, conducted by Advocate Vincent Maleka, found that there was no racism involved in the incident, but added that Maleka’s report will be sent to the SAHRC for their consideration.
“I was advised that we should go to the Equality Court‚ but upon reflection, I have indicated to my legal team that the Human Rights Commission is there to respect the Constitution‚ and the Constitution ensures that our human rights are protected,” Willemse said.
“Out of respect for that‚ I informed (my legal team) that I feel we should honour the submission which SuperSport has indicated it will now send to the Human Rights Commission, based on the report of Advocate Maleka.
“We will participate in that process. I will be allowed to go there and engage in that appropriate forum‚ and in that process hopefully restore my dignity.”
Willemse said that he had attended the initial interviews with Maleka, but was not comfortable with the terms of reference of the investigation.
“We felt that it did not allow us to deal with everything we’d like them to deal with. It was voluntary, so we decided not to participate, we did indicate to him that this is not the appropriate forum,” he said.
“And in terms of the silence, I had nothing to say at that stage because I understand the magnitude of what has transpired and what it has started.
“It’s evident on my Twitter timeline, on my Facebook inbox... the messages, the media articles, the commentary... so I understand this moment and what it has started.
“At the end of the day‚ it’s not a light matter. I see this in the teary eyes of elderly folk who meet me on the streets and say ‘Thank you for standing up for me’.
“It’s legitimate pain‚ and so my silence was a case of me allowing the process to unfold up until a point where we can deal with this matter in the appropriate manner – which I indicated right from the onset to SuperSport – and we’ve not been granted that opportunity as of yet.”
Willemse and Mallett have not returned as rugby analysts to SuperSport since the incident, while Botha was back this past weekend for Super Rugby matches involving the Bulls against the Jaguares and the Stormers versus the Sharks.