South Africa’s sports minister Tokozile Xasa says SuperSport must suspend Nick Mallett and Naas Botha during its investigation into an incident involving Ashwin Willemse.
During a live post-match discussion on Saturday evening, Willemse said: ‘I’ve been in the game for a long time like most of us here. As a player, I’ve been called a quota for a long time and I’ve worked very hard to earn the respect I have now. I’m not going to sit here and be patronised by these two individuals [Mallett and Botha] who played their rugby during the apartheid era, a segregated era.’
He then walked off the set, with Mallett and Botha continuing their discussion with host Motshidisi Mohono, who called the episode ‘unfortunate’.
It remains unclear what led to Willemse making those comments.
On Saturday night, SuperSport tweeted that it was ‘aware of the on-air incident’ and ‘looking into the matter’, adding that ‘SuperSport views this incident in a serious light – we will conduct a full investigation and interview all relevant individuals.’
Xasa responded to the incident in a press release on Sunday.
‘This behaviour of entitlement by some white South Africans who continue to think that their whiteness represents better must come to an end, if it was not for a barbaric nonsensical apartheid system that privileged them we could not have implemented quota system to normalize an otherwise abnormal system,’ she said.
‘Willemse is not just a former Springbok player but in 2003 he was named SA Rugby Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and the Player’s Player of the Year. Players like Willemse, [Bryan] Habana and [Siya] Kolisi continue to make us proud as a nation and affirm that they are not token players or quota players.
‘The Department of Sport & Recreation through its transformation charter that was adopted in 2011 noted that the quota system has been largely unsuccessful in bringing about an effectively transformed sport system and is causing substantial consequential damage for many black players who were labelled as “tokens”, and referred to as mere replacement of white face with a black face.
‘It is clear that Ashwin Willemse was referred to as a quota player by his fellow panelists despite his many successes in the field of play, I call upon SuperSport to suspend the two panelists while they are busy with full investigation.
‘The continued appearance of Mallet and Botha will be seen as an endorsement of their alleged racist behaviour.’