SuperSport CEO Gideon Khobane says the incident involving Ashwin Willemse was not a racially motivated issue.
Willemse walked off the SuperSport set during a live discussion with Nick Mallett and Naas Botha after the Lions’ win against the Brumbies last Saturday. He accused the duo of ‘patronising’ him.
Addressing the media after initial meetings with all three panellists in Randburg on Monday, Khobane said he did not believe it was a racial issue.
‘What we’ve always encouraged on our platforms is for panelists to engage in robust debate. We don’t think it’s a racially motivated issue, because if it were, it would be easier to come to a solution,’ Khobane said.
‘They have requested a bit of time. We don’t want to force anybody to divulge how they are feeling deep inside, as it is a very emotional issue.
‘All three need a bit of time to reflect on what happened. You can imagine that the past 48 hours has been a crazy whirlwind. They haven’t been able to sleep, eat or engage with their families.’
Multichoice CEO Calvo Mawela added that all three were willing to work together again and that nobody’s job was on the line.
‘There’s no animosity that exists between the three of them – from what we have seen today. They kept on talking to each other like mature people, and that we think is a positive step in terms of the engagement that we are having,’ Mawela said.
‘We are going deeper into people’s feelings, which is why we will still engage with people. We feel we still need further engagements to get to the bottom of this.
‘From the observation of today’s discussions, there is no racism that we picked up from any of the discussions that we have had. As far as we are concerned, it’s people who got into some discussions of some sort, and we are still digging deeper to find out what really happened and led to this type of action, because nobody walks off stage just for the sake of walking off stage.’
All the parties have agreed to continue participating in this process.
Said Willemse: ‘We had robust discussions in which I aired my views. I’m very appreciative of the process undertaken by SuperSport. The complexity of the issues are very profound.’
Said Nick Mallett: ‘I appreciated the opportunity to air my views. Clearly there are issues that must be grappled with. I am more than happy to collaborate and contribute to resolving this matter.’
Said Naas Botha: ‘This was a first meeting and we all had our say, which was helpful. We’ve invested in a process to resolve matters and I’m confident that we will get a satisfactory resolution.’
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images