There is a very simple way of getting to the bottom of, and sorting out, the SuperSport Studio Saga once and for all.
SuperSport should interview everyone on the broadcast set and establish whether there is a pattern of abusive and racist behaviour or not and what that pattern reveals.
Do Mallet and Botha undermine anyone else in the studio? Are there other black and coloured staff who feel undermined by the two? If there are, it would strongly point to the fact that Mallet and Botha may harbour some latent racial issues that need to be dealt with, urgently. If that is the case, SuperSport must act decisively against Mallet and Botha as two racists in such prominent positions cannot be tolerated.
Multichoice management must also ask if there are any white staffers who feel undermined by the two? If there are, it would point more towards Mallet and Botha being arrogant big heads than racist fools and their behaviour in the company needs to be addressed and appropriate action taken such as a course in interpersonal skills for both and pubic apologies for the hurt they have caused or being fired if they refuse either.
I would be surprised if either Mallet or Botha harboured any racial prejudice because both men have enjoyed long careers in which race has never been as issue for either. Botha even joined the delegation that went to meet the exiled ANC in Senegal before it was unbanned and Mandela and his peers were released from jail. That doesn’t mean though that tone-deaf white men couldn’t be racially patronising, it would just surprise me if these two men were.
If there is no one else in the studio who feels they have been undermined by Mallet and Botha, it would point to there being no more than a clash of personalities between Mallet and/or Botha and Willemse and the whole country can calm down, relieved that race was not the cause of the walk out.
But where would that leave us? Why would Willemse have made the statements he did, if there is no evidence to back up his statements? Could it be that Mallet or Botha (or both) and Willemse just do not like each other as people? For whatever reason that has nothing to do with race? It seems this is not a possibility anyone from the sports minister to the average rugby fan is willing to concede. But that doesn’t make any of them bad people, just normal human beings.
If Willemse felt undermined by Mallet and Botha, and there is no doubt that he felt undermined and hurt, could it be that in a moment of wishing to ‘get back’ at the people who have hurt him, he wanted to hurt them back, in a way that could have a lasting effect on their careers, lives and families?
It happens in all our lives, in our families, in our schools and in our workplaces that some people just do not like each other or, through some misunderstanding, feel aggrieved by someone else and reciprocate in kind, to be as hurtful to the other person as they can. People often say things they later regret. We have all done so. This is not necessarily racist behaviour, it’s just good old bad old human behaviour.
It leaves us in a difficult position though. If no one else in the studio feels that Mallet or Botha have directed any racist actions or tones against them, how should Willemse be sanctioned for levelling a racist accusation against Mallet and Botha? There are some people who insist Willemse ‘played the race card because he is a racist‘.
If we are willing to give Mallet and Botha the benefit of the doubt, we must surely be willing to give Willemse the benefit of the doubt too. His actions were no more racist than Mallet’s and Botha’s. If in a fit of rage a wife picked up a vase and threw it at her husband, would we assume she had an issue with vases? No, she just grabbed the thing nearest to hand and chucked it.
Ashwin Willemse has a long history of fighting the odds, from a very tough childhood with very destructive influences, to do the right thing. He is widely recognised for the good he does and as the role model he has become for positively influencing youth and people in general. Why would he tarnish that by exhibiting racist behaviour? He is indisputably a good human being through and through. Could it be he simply picked up the object closest to hand and chucked it?
There are no sides to choose in this saga. There are no bad people in it. What we have is someone who has felt hurt and undermined and the only action that SuperSport should be taking is working with the three men to foster better understanding and communication between them to exhibit the individuals, SuperSport, rugby and South Africa, in the best possible light.