by Hannes Wessels
So a month after the celebrated tantrum when Ashwin Willemse stormed off a live Super Sport broadcast, a report is finally out.
Immediately after the incident, which left co – panellists Nick Mallet and Naas Botha in stunned disbelief, Willemse explained he had acted because he felt “patronised”. During his time on the programme he complained that he had been demeaned and called “a quota player”. He continued “I worked hard to earn respect in this game..” He further stigmatised Mallett and Botha as being“.. two individuals who played in the apartheid era.”
The political and media establishment howled hysterical triumphalism as ANC hot-shots, radio jocks and ‘call-ins’ joined the bellicose chorus of self-righteous condemnation of Botha and Mallett.
Tokozile Xaxa, the Minister of Sport quickly called for the two to be suspended immediately, adding: “This behaviour of entitlement by some 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 quota system to normalise an otherwise abnormal system. The continued appearance of Mallet and Botha will be seen as an endorsement of their alleged racial behaviour.”
On radio and TV the sentiment was the same – with nary a dissenting voice the case was clear: Mallett and Botha were unrepentant racists and all that needed to be decided was how best to punish them. One radio presenter suggested the word “quota” was now so insulting in SA that it should be considered ‘hate-speech’. ‘Hate-speech’ should bring jail-time!
The court of public opinion had decided their guilt.
Botha will go down in history as one of the country’s finest fly-halves and a rugby legend while Mallet has become an iconic figure nationally and internationally following a working life devoted to the game as a player and coach. Through no fault of their own they happened to play during the apartheid era. This brought its own problems. Both had severe restrictions placed on their international careers and were vilified and caught up in a political conflict they played no part in creating. They were amateurs; they played for love of the game, not for financial reward. They played hard, fair and at times brilliantly, bringing lustre to the game and joy to millions. Since leaving the field of play, both have committed themselves, invariably for no reward, to alleviating poverty and to bringing the less privileged youth into the game in a bid to correct injustices of the past.
Notwithstanding this, they have, to all intents and purposes, been charged, tried and convicted of the offence of being ‘racists’ in a country and in a world where that label is more damaging to a person’s standing in society than being called a murderer or a paedophile. Their careers are in jeopardy and they have been viciously slandered – but because they are white – none of the normal rules apply. Even the most basic norms of common decency and civility have been brazenly ignored.
Recently the official report came out. Headed by Advocate Vincent Maleka, the commission found no proof of racially motivated behaviour on the part of the ‘condemned’ couple. Delivering the report SuperSport CEO, Gideon Khobane explained that Professor Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand (and presumably an expert on ‘racism’) had concluded he found no evidence whatsoever of ‘intended or unintended racism’. (The fact that we now know that ‘racism’ can be a function of ‘unintended’ behaviour is a concern. Normally ‘intent’ is a prerequisite for wrongdoing but again it appears new rules are being made as we move along.)
However, in his delivery of the report, Khobane appeared to make a strenuous effort to excuse Willemse’s behaviour – despite compelling evidence that Willemse often failed to watch the featured games closely enough and his co-panelists had to cover for him. Mallet has now revealed that he was indeed struggling to work with Willemse and asked management to find slots for him with other members of the show, most of whom were black and all of whom Mallett spoke highly of.
Astonishingly, the ‘victim’, Willemse refused to appear before Maleka in person and excluded himself. For reasons that escape me and the commentariat, he insists this was not the correct forum. He has now decided to take his case to the Equality Court.
So now what? Well, at time of writing the Honourable Mrs. Tokozile Xasa is strangely subdued and has issued a bland statement welcoming the report but unsurprisingly, no acknowledgement of her earlier distortions. No apologies either from the media lynch-mob. Mallet and Botha will just have to roll with the punches while the Super Sport bosses continue to try and coax poor Ashwin back on air to help him heal! And just in case something was missed by Advocate Maleka, the entire matter is being referred to the South African Human Rights Council so their eagle-eyed experts in race and crime have an opportunity to check the record. I suspect all the focus will be on Ashwin’s human rights and to hell with Botha and Mallett! They are white so who cares?
It would be some comfort to conclude this unfortunate episode is a bump in the road and we will soon be back on a smoother track, but watching the national reaction to this incident has been chilling. It seems a substantial swathe of the populace is possessed of a heartfelt hatred toward Europeans and there exists a thinly veiled but burning desire, warranted or unwarranted, to visit vengeance upon them. As an inept and corrupt government continues to squander the expertise and resources needed to uplift the needy, this animus is likely to grow. Unscrupulous politicians will continue to use the race card to deflect blame for their blunders onto the whites.
We should listen carefully to Julius Malema menacing comment when he warns, “We are not calling for the slaughtering of white people, at least for now.” Maybe we have a little time but we can’t say we were not warned.