JOHANNESBURG – Ashwin Willemse will push ahead in his fight with SuperSport to acknowledge racism was at play when he decided to walk off set during a live television broadcast on May 19.
This, after talks between the former Springbok wing and now rugby analyst Willemse and the CEO of SuperSport, Gideon Khobane, failed to produce any meaningful outcome on Friday.
“Based on the CEO’s invitation, Mr Willemse attended the meeting (on Friday) in the spirit of reconciliation,” read a statement issued by Willemse’s lawyer, Nqobizitha Mlilo, on Friday. “Sadly, that spirit was glaringly absent in the meeting, and the meeting itself was almost meaningless, and most certainly inconsequential.”
Willemse accepted an invitation to meet with Khobane following the release of the Vincent Maleka report into the incident of May 19 – when Willemse walked off set after the Lions versus Brumbies Super Rugby match. The former Bok wing – seemingly angered by something that was said or done off air – said he would not be patronised and undermined by two people who played their rugby during apartheid. He was referring to his co-workers Nick Mallett and Naas Botha.
The Maleka report though, released this week, found no evidence of racism which could have led to Willemse walking off set, but the former Bok wing is adamant racism was at play on the day.
On Tuesday, when the report was released, Khobane said he saw a future for Willemse at SuperSport. “It is my sincere hope that we will be able, in some way, to find a workable solution in which we can make this a reality,” he said.
Also, “In the spirit of reconciliation, I will make another attempt to reach out to Ashwin for us to find a mutually acceptable way forward so that he knows that this issue has been fairly investigated.”
Willemse didn’t participate in the Maleka investigation.
Mlilo further said on Friday, “Nothing was discussed in the meeting (with Khobane) which caused Mr Willemse to reconsider his position on any of the issues he has said in respect of this matter.”
Mlilo added he would now make an application to gain access to emails that were sent between Willemse’s colleagues and management at SuperSport before deciding on the next step.
“There is a long history of this matter ... what happened on May 19 was the boiling point,” said Mlilo. “I can’t understand why SuperSport can’t acknowledge it ... that racism led to the incident on May 19.”
Mlilo added the contents of the emails they are seeking – those sent by Mallett and the executive producers and managers at SuperSport – would determine whether they take the matter to the Equality Court or not.
“The door remains open for discussions with SuperSport, but they need to take the matter seriously.”