Willemse’s col­leagues pen ex­plo­sive let­ter ac­cus­ing Su­perS­port of racism

Sunday Times - - News | Battle Royal - By KARYN MAUGHAN and GRAEME HOSKEN

● Al­le­ga­tions of racism have been lev­elled against Su­perS­port man­age­ment by at least four black pre­sen­ters.

The ac­cu­sa­tions are con­tained in a let­ter — which the Sun­day Times has seen — by MVMT At­tor­neys and is now the sub­ject of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by law firm Web­ber Wentzel.

Su­perS­port spokesman Clin­ton van der Berg con­firmed they had re­ceived the let­ter, which is be­lieved to have been writ­ten on be­half of an­chors Owen Nkumane, Xola Nt­shinga, Kaunda Ntunja and Gcobani Bobo.

The let­ter fol­lows al­le­ga­tions by Su­perS­port pre­sen­ter Ash­win Willemse that the com­pany tried to “white­wash” his claims of in­sti­tu­tion­alised racism at the chan­nel and that he was threat­ened with the loss of his con­tract if he pur­sued his lit­i­ga­tion through the Equal­ity Court against his co-pre­sen­ters — Nick Mallett and Naas Botha.

Su­perS­port this week, through an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, an­nounced they had cleared Mal­let and Botha of the racism al­le­ga­tions that Willemse had lev­elled against them.

Van der Berg said they had taken note of the let­ter from MVMT.

“The mat­ter is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is al­most com­plete. Su­perS­port will com­mu­ni­cate di­rectly with the in­di­vid­u­als con­cerned. No threat has been made to Ash­win Willemse.”

The re­port about the al­le­ga­tions con­tained in the lawyers’ let­ter is ex­pected to be fi­nalised this week.

The four Su­perS­port an­chors ac­cuse the chan­nel of dis­crim­i­na­tion, lack of pay par­ity with white col­leagues and al­leged in­tim­i­da­tion and vic­tim­i­sa­tion.

A list of griev­ances, seen by the Sun­day Times, re­veals black an­chors at Su­perS­port be­lieved cer­tain roles at the chan­nel are “re­served for non-white pun­dits”, and com­plained of “vic­tim­i­sa­tion, pub­lic hu­mil­i­a­tion, abu­sive lan­guage, in­tim­i­da­tion and other in­ap­pro­pri­ate man­age­ment”.

They fur­ther al­lege that white con­trac­tors are paid more than black con­trac­tors, who they be­lieve are ex­pected to do more work.

Speak­ing to the Sun­day Times yes­ter­day, Willemse’s at­tor­ney, Nqo­bizitha Mlilo, said Willemse’s le­gal team would seek a copy of the Web­ber Wentzel re­port once it had been re­leased, and would be bring­ing le­gal ap­pli­ca­tions for ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion — specif­i­cally in re­la­tion to emails sent about Willemse’s per­for­mance as a com­men­ta­tor, and Su­perS­port’s re­sponse to them.

Mlilo claimed that Su­perS­port CEO Gideon Khobane told Willemse on Fri­day the pre­sen­ter’s con­tract would be ter­mi­nated if Willemse per­sisted with the Equal­ity Court lit­i­ga­tion.

“Khobane told Ash­win that if he per­sists with lit­i­ga­tion against Naas and Nick, he does not see a fu­ture at Su­perS­port for Ash­win. Ash­win told him he will go ahead.”

Mlilo said Willemse de­cided to go to the Equal­ity Court about his com­plaint against Mallett and Botha be­cause he be­lieved that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­ducted by Ad­vo­cate Vin­cent Maluleke was flawed.

“One of the dif­fi­cul­ties we had was that the process did not al­low for cross-ex­am­i­na­tion, and was essen­tially struc­tured so that the in­di­vid­u­als in­volved would be in­ter­viewed sep­a­rately from each other, with­out knowl­edge of what the oth­ers said.

“So our is­sue was that Ash­win is not go­ing to hear this ev­i­dence, he’s not go­ing to cros­sex­am­ine. Our ques­tion was: ‘You have spo­ken to all these peo­ple, how are you go­ing to make a de­ter­mi­na­tion on who is telling the truth and who is not?’ And his re­sponse was: ‘Look, I’m man­dated to con­duct an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and not nec­es­sar­ily to make a de­ter­mi­na­tion of racism.’ ”

It was against this back­ground that Willemse chose not to tes­tify.

Ash­win Willemse

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