This week Supersport made public the findings of its investigation into racism among its TV analysts as led by Advocate Vincent Maleka.
The investigation failed to find any evidence that Nick Mallett and Naas Botha, analysts with Ashwin Willemse on the day in question (May 19), behaved in any sense racist towards Willemse. Willemse did not participate in the inquiry as he believes the process as led by SuperSport was not the appropriate forum to engage the subject matter. The investigation proceeded in the absence of Willemse.
It goes without saying that the outcomes of any investigation, research or inquiry can be predetermined by the terms of reference. It is in this instance noted that “Willemse is aggrieved by what happened on May 19 and considers racism to have inspired the conduct of his colleagues.” Right here is the potential problem. By restricting the terms to what happened on that specific day, in the absence of appreciating a much longer time period may have scripted the outcome it ultimately arrives at. The final outcome of the Maleka inquiry does not materially differ from Supersport’s May 21 statement. Already then racism was ruled out. Did we really assume that Advocate Maleka would find racism? If so, why?
The Supersport inquiry purports to have been extensive. Notwithstanding the fact that Willemse did not participate and the investigation was left much poorer as admitted by Supersport and Maleka, it reached a conclusion.
The questions for Supersport are many. Why did Supersport assume its approach was the best way to deal with the challenge? Was SuperSport correct to make it a racism investigation? Was it correct to limit the investigation to the events of the day? How would one prove racism in this or any other instance? Would it have been racism if the K-word was used? Was it a deliberate attempt of obfuscation in its choice of terms of reference?
In the aftermath of the publication of the report, we were exposed to some of the emailed opinions of Nick Mallett as entertained by the investigation. They are dated October 2016 and September 2017. Mallet was categorical in his disdain for Willemse.
Clearly, there is a history of tension and dissatisfaction that could have justified Willemse’s decision to walk off the set. In one of Mallett’s emails, he accuses Willemse of having an ‘agenda’ and he uses that for a basis as to why they should not work together on live broadcasts.
Let us then hear Mallett in his own words: “It would be great if Ashwin could be moved… where we don’t have to work together. I think he talks garbage, we irritate the hell out of each other and the working environment is just unpleasant and tense.”
From this communication, Mallett is emphatically clear that he wants Willemse removed from the broadcasts that he participates in. Mallett’s core gripe with Willemse is summed up with ‘I think he talks garbage, we irritate the hell or of each other and the working environment is unpleasant and tense”.
With these words, Mallett makes known his irrevocable opinion on Willemse. It is Mallett’s right to have an opinion. The question is, is it his right to dictate terms to Supersport when he is contracted similar to all other rugby analysts?
Mallett’s accusation of an incompetent Willemse appears refuted by an email from Malcolm Russel, the Supersport consultant assigned to oversee the analysts. Russel on the same day sent out an email conveying congratulatory remarks to the whole team with the following words: “This is the first time I have done an everyone in the Team mail. I am not about to single anyone out for special recognition because the discussions, and vibe, had your audience, I am certain, pinned to their seats.” Does this jubilant appraisal of Russel not poke holes in Mallet’s garbage claims?
Can Mallett explain why he believes Supersport made a substandard decision to appoint ‘agenda’-driven, garbage talking Ashwin Willemse? Why is Supersport not insulted by this claim of Mallett?
The general assumption is every analyst is contracted as an individual. They are also contracted based on what they negotiate informed by a professional skill set anchored in necessary experience. If we accept this general principle to stand, Willemse’s appointment was made similar to Mallett’s.
We do not know if Mallett is the self-appointed head rugby analyst or if his contract says so, that he may accord himself a right to dictate a Willemse removal. Unless Supersport has misled us and chose Willemse as quota analyst. Is Willemse also on a quota analyst income?
Mallet goes on to assert: “I am very happy to work with Breyton [Paulse], Shimmy [Hanyani Shimange] or Bobs instead as, unlike with Ashwin, I respect their hard work and rugby opinions.”
Clearly, Mallett appropriates a right to direct who is suitable to work with him. By now we must assume Nick Mallet is in charge and is more equal than others. He does not explain what garbage, Willemse talks. He assumes if he says garbage we will understand he is exempted from that same ‘garbage’ in his commentary. We must ask by what powers Mallet feels entitled to make the demands he does? Supersport must tell us if Mallet was appointed as head honcho lording over the rugby analysts.
Supersport must explain why it entertains this attitude of Nick Mallett.
Interesting enough, the Maleka report that details a set of recommendations, is not conclusive as the final authority on the matter of justice for Willemse. We all knew it could never be conclusive. Perhaps herein lies the concession that the actual investigation in the format and forum from the start was not the appropriate place to handle the matter.
On another score, the Maleka report also finds nothing unusual or extraordinary on the attitude of Mallet, not even as a bully, as his emails are crystal clear on his views about Willemse. The Maleka report sees it not right to question the arrogant right Mallett affords himself to consider an equally appointed analyst as substandard and not competent to work with him.
What then was this investigation? It may be deduced that it was a means to end. That end was to exonerate Mallett and Botha from racism. Mallett is the big winner. On Saturday he will be in his studio with Botha and Willemse will be absent, because his removal was long demanded and directed since 2016.
Despite the public relations stunts of the CEO of Supersport when he claims he will continue reaching out to Willemse, that reach out is to convince Willemse that the investigation was the best option and its findings final.
Supersport’s bosses have already submitted to Mallett because the latter is more equal than other analysts.