JOHANNESBURG – South African rugby fans are no closer to knowing why former Springbok wing Ashwin Willemse walked out of a SuperSport television studio during a live broadcast of the post-match analysis of a Super Rugby match on May 19.
Willemse sensationally said to fellow studio analysts Nick Mallett and Naas Botha he would not be undermined by his fellow in-studio colleagues, uttering the words that ”he would not be patronised by two people who played under apartheid” referring to Mallett and Botha who played their rugby mainly in the 1980s. He also said he had been called “a quota” before walking off set.
An independent review done by advocate Vincent Maleka – who was appointed by SuperSport to investigate the matter - however has found that racism was not involved in the studio walkout incident.
However the findings did not include Willemse’s version of events that day as he chose to not participate in the investigation, and has given no reason for deciding so.
CEO of SuperSport Gideon Khobane said Willemse remained contracted to the company and he wished to speak to the former Bok wing to ascertain why he said what he did on the day in question.
“In the spirit of reconciliation I want to find a way forward,” said Khobane. “Nick and Naas will continue in their roles as analysts and I also still see a place for Ashwin. It’s important we don’t close the door on him.”
Maleka’s 50-page investigation report includes interviews with all the role-players in studio on the day when the Lions played the Brumbies, while he also conducted an interview with well-renowned expert on race relations Prof Adam Habib, among other things.
The findings include: The conduct of Botha and Mallett, on and off air on the day, did not amount to naked racism; there was no evidence of subtle racism and it cannot be explained why Willemse walked out of the studio.
JUST IN: Nick Mallett has just left the @MultiChoiceSA building in Randburg after meetings with @SuperSportTV management, reports @jacq_west. SuperSport CEO Gideon Khobane set to speak to media shortly @IOL #AshwinWillemse pic.twitter.com/TVa2sbowBn
Advocate Vincent Maleka SC’s findings:
1. That the conduct of Naas and Nick during the off-air conversation with Ashwin and during the live studio broadcast of the post-match commentary of the match “does not manifest naked racism and was not motivated by racist considerations”.
2. Assisted by Prof Habib, Advocate Maleka SC also found that there was also no evidence of Naas or Nick exhibiting either intended or unintended subtle racism.
3. The incident cannot be explained on the basis of the suggestion or suspicion that Ashwin was, for the most part, not present in the studio when the second half of the rugby match was televised.
4. There are two factors which provide a reasonable explanation for the incident. The first is the (mistaken) technical assumption that there was enough time for all the analyst to express their pre-match analysis or commentary of the Lions/Brumbies rugby match.
However, the switch to the live broadcast happened sooner than anticipated. Consequently, there was no time for Ashwin to express his views.
The panel then agreed, off-air, that Ashwin would be given the first opportunity to speak after the game.
The second is that it is reasonable to assume that Ashwin may have regarded the common stance adopted by Nick and Naas as patronising when they insisted that he should thereafter speak first.
SuperSport has vowed to create a forum for their analysts to express their views to improve their work conditions and put a code of conduct in place to allow for the airing of grievances.
All those who were in the studio on May 19 will be afforded an opportunity to go for counselling.