Willemse’s colleagues pen explosive letter accusing SuperSport of racism
● 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.