News24.com | Sports Minister stands by her statement on Willemse on-air incident

Sports and Recreation Minister Tokozile Xasa stands by her strongly-worded statement on the controversial incident involving former Springbok winger Ashwin Willemse, after MultiCoice said it didn‘t find any racism in the event.

Xasa called for the suspension of former Springbok rugby players Nass Botha and Nick Mallet, who were on air with Willemse on Saturday evening after a Super Rugby match between the Lions and Brumbies.

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Willemse, who is a former Springbok and 2003 South African rugby player of the year, left the studio after he said on live television that he would not tolerate being patronised by people who played rugby during the apartheid era.

Before walking off set, he lamented that he had been categorised as a quota player all his life, while he worked very hard to get a place in the Springbok team.

Xasa said at a press briefing after delivering her budget to the National Assembly, that she was at a netball match on Saturday evening when social media erupted with the news of the incident.

The following day she released a statement which read: “This behaviour of entitlement by some white 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.”

“It is clear that Ashwin Willemse was referred to as a quota player by his fellow panellists, despite his many successes in the field of play. I call upon SuperSport to suspend the two panellists while they are busy with a full investigation.”

“The continued appearance of Mallet and Botha will be seen as an endorsement of their alleged racist behaviour.”

On Monday, SuperSport held talks between Willemse, Mallett and Botha but didn‘t get to the bottom of what sparked the incident on Saturday.

MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela said, from what had been said in the discussions, there did not seem to be any racist behaviour involved.

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On Tuesday, Xasa said all the facts are not yet out in the open.

“My statement still stands,” she said.

She will review it when she is informed of all the full facts.

In her budget speech, she highlighted the important role that sport can play in fostering social cohesion.

“Mandela used sport to provide dignity and hope in the face of apartheid-sponsored oppression. [He] used sport to undermine discrimination with resistance, to heal and help unite society that the racial segregation of apartheid had brutally divided – a long walk to take,” she said.

“I stand on the shoulders of those giants who symbolise unity, reconciliation, human rights; South Africans who fought for a united sport in South Africa, some departed – Steve Tshwete, Makhenkesi Stofile and many others.”

During the debate on her budget vote, EFF MP Nazier Paulsen said what happened on Saturday was “the perfect example of how [Xasa‘s] department has failed”.

He said the ANC lacked the commitment to ensure transformation in rugby because they were scared of white people.

“The EFF is not scared of white people. We fear fokkol. Not even white people,” he said.

He had to withdraw the word “fokol”.  

At the briefing after her speech, Xasa also said: “Sport can be a tool for social cohesion and can unite the people.”

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