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SAHRC calls for info on 'racism' after Ashwin Willemse SuperSport drama

Ashwin Willemse slammed Nick Mallett and Naas Botha before walking off the SuperSport set.
Ashwin Willemse slammed Nick Mallett and Naas Botha before walking off the SuperSport set.

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Thursday called on employees and independent contractors working at SuperSport to make submissions on potential racism at the channel.

This comes after former Springbok winger Ashwin Willemse walked off set during a live broadcast on May 19 2018 after a verbal clash with fellow rugby analysts Nick Mallett and Naas Botha.

Willemse said in December that he walked off after being brought to “breaking point”.

“I reached a breaking point. The camel’s back was broken. I made a statement where I articulated what I believe is happening to me by the conduct of these two individuals‚ Nick [Mallett] and Naas [Botha]‚” Willemse said.

“They infringed my dignity and that’s what I am going to argue… hopefully the process at the human rights commission can affirm that.”

The SAHRC decided to investigate after SuperSport gave it a report from Advocate Vincent Maleka.

He found there was no “naked racism” by Botha and Mallett‚ and there was no subtle racism motivating Willemse‚ who did not participate in Maleka’s investigative report.

Former Springbok rugby player Ashwin Willemse sat down to talk about what led to him walking off set during a live Supersport broadcast and how the incident has impacted on his life as well as what he hopes to achieve going forward.

It emerged in the report that Mallett emailed executive producer Scott Seward in October 2016 to say: “I really enjoy working with Bobs [Gcobani Bobo] and Xola [Ntshinga]‚ Scott. They are a real pleasure… Xola asks very good questions and Bobs knows enough about rugby to produce interesting clips for discussion.

“Unlike with the complex Ashwin‚ there are no agendas. It would be great if Ashwin could be moved… where we don’t have to work together. I think he talks garbage‚ we irritate the hell out of each other and the working environment is just unpleasant and tense.”

The SAHRC said on Thursday: “The commission has deemed it appropriate and in the public interest to broaden the scope of its investigation to probe other allegations of racial discrimination at SuperSport which fall outside the scope of Maleka SC’s independent review.”

The deadline for written submissions is May 31. The inquiry will have its first sitting on March 20 and 22.

- TMG Digital

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