CAPE TOWN – SuperSport announced on Friday that they will institute a review into the incident that saw Ashwin Willemse walk off set during a live broadcast last Saturday.
Willemse said that he was “not going to be patronised by two individuals who played in apartheid”, namely Nick Mallett and Naas Botha, who was in studio along with presenter Motshidisi Mohono to analyse Super Rugby matches.
Let’s look at the timeline of events that led to SuperSport’s statement…
Saturday, May 19:
- Willemse, Mallett and Botha are in studio to analyse two Super Rugby games: Sharks v Chiefs and Lions v Brumbies.
- At the end of the Lions game, Willemse is asked for his views by Mohono, but the former Springbok wing replies: “Naas, what do you think about it? Do you think it was a good game?” Willemse said, to which Botha responded, laughing: “I used all the time before the game, it’s all your time.”
Willemse added: “I think we are not going to patronise each other here, so I think Nick, maybe you want to have your view on the game... Please go for it, I want to keep the order here. All yours.”
Mallett then said, “I will do” while smiling, and proceeded to speak about the game.
- Later, Mohono goes to Willemse again, which is when he said he was “not going to be patronised by two individuals who played in apartheid”, and that “I can’t work with people that undermine other people. And you can sit and you can laugh about it (I’m not laughing about it, says Mallett), but you know exactly what happened.
“And you can sit and you can laugh about it (I’m not laughing about it, says Mallett), but you know exactly what happened.
“And it’s fine, it’s fine. I don’t mind being ridiculous. I’m glad it happens on air so that people can see, because you two sit here – no, it’s fine.”
- Mohono said: “Well, that’s unfortunate, because the match was going so well, and so was our conversation… It would’ve been great to hear Ash’s thoughts, especially because he had so much to say regarding this match between the Lions and the Brumbies.”
- Later that evening, SuperSport send out two tweets: “SuperSport is aware of the on-air incident and is looking into the matter. SuperSport views this incident in a serious light - we will conduct a full investigation and interview all relevant individuals.”
Sunday, May 20:
- Minister of Sport and Recreation, Tokozile Xasa, called on SuperSport to suspend Mallett and Botha while the investigation continues. “The continued appearance of Mallett and Botha will be seen as an endorsement of their alleged racist behaviour.”
- Prominent South Africans, including three Springboks in Gio Aplon, Thando Manana and Tonderai Chavhanga, tweet their support for Willemse.
Monday, May 21:
SuperSport release a statement on Monday morning, saying that “prejudice of any sort will not be tolerated by SuperSport”, with Mawela stating: “SuperSport has taken note of the strong public sentiment and we take this matter seriously. Whatever the findings, appropriate action will be taken to remedy the situation.”
- On Monday evening, after a day of discussions between the three analysts and management, Khobane and Mawela hold a press briefing, saying that “no racism was picked up in the discussions”, and that no jobs were on the line. Khobane went as far as saying that “it is still business as usual in a lot of ways for us”, and that all three men were prepared to work together and would not be taken off air.
Tuesday, May 22-Thursday, May 24:
- Talks continue between SuperSport and the analysts, but no public comments are made.
Friday, May 25:
- SuperSport release a statement just before 1pm, in which they say that the matter could not be resolved, and that a review would be chaired by Advocate Vincent Maleka SC. Willemse, Mallett and Botha will be taken off air until Maleka makes his findings and recommendations, by June 11. The trio are not suspended and will continue to be paid in terms of their contracts.