CAPE TOWN – SuperSport have expressed their concern with the incident that led to Ashwin Willemse walking off set during a live broadcast on Saturday night, adding that “prejudice of any sort will not be tolerated”.
The sport broadcasting giant released a statement on Monday morning, more than 37 hours after the dramatic walkout by Willemse, who said that he was “not going to be patronised by two individuals who played in apartheid”, Nick Mallett and Naas Botha, following the Lions’ victory over the Brumbies on Saturday night.
SuperSport confirmed that a “preliminary investigation” was under way, which would include Willemse, Mallett, Botha and presenter Motshidisi Mohono, as well as senior management and production staff in Johannesburg on Monday.
“SuperSport has noted with concern the events that saw presenter Ashwin Willemse walk out of the SuperSport studio on Saturday evening,” read the statement.
“SuperSport acknowledges the comments from the Ministry of Sport and Recreation, and will engage with Minister of Sport and Recreation Tokozile Xasa’s office in this regard.
“Prejudice of any sort will not be tolerated by SuperSport. SuperSport will keep the public and media informed of the investigation.”
The chief executive of Multichoice South Africa, Calvo Mawela, said on Monday: “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.”
Sports minister, Tokozile Xasa, called for both Mallett and Botha to be suspended while the investigation takes place, and said that she was “shocked by the alleged behaviour of rugby analysts at the SuperSport studios”.
“This behaviour of entitlement by some white South Africans who continue to think that their whiteness represent better must come to an end. If it was not for a barbaric nonsensical apartheid system that privileged them, we could not have implemented (a) quota system to normalise an otherwise abnormal system,” Xasa said.
“The continued appearance of Mallett and Botha will be seen as an endorsement of their alleged racist behaviour.”
SA Rugby said on Monday that they are “as surprised and concerned as the rest of the rugby community by Saturday evening’s incident on SuperSport.
“It would not be fair to make snap judgements. However, something was clearly amiss, and it reflected poorly on rugby. This is a SuperSport matter, and we have asked to be kept informed on the process of the investigation.”