South Africa 10.7.2018 12:34 pm

My pain is legitimate, Willemse says in first public interview since walkout

Ashwin Willemse and wife Michelle celebrate his graduation in mid-2018 with a master's degree.

Ashwin Willemse and wife Michelle celebrate his graduation in mid-2018 with a master's degree.

The former Springbok has explained why he never offered his side of the matter to SuperSport’s independent inquiry.

Confronting the issue in his first public interview with radio 702, Ashwin Willemse has confirmed that he believes the incident that saw him storm off from a SuperSport broadcast, which was sparked by a disagreement between himself and fellow hosts Nick Mallett and Naas Botha, was racially charged.

A supposedly independent inquiry into Willemse’s walkout recently found there was no evidence of racism in the lead-up to the walkout.

Gideon Khobane, chief executive at the broadcaster, on Tuesday afternoon confirmed that SuperSport had unequivocally accepted the findings and recommendations made by Advocate Vincent Maleka, who was approached to conduct the probe after initial engagements with the relevant parties broke down.

However, in his interview, Willemse explained why he had not participated in the inquiry.

READ MORE: Willemse should apologise for ‘race card’, says Twitter in about-turn

“I attended the hearings and we clarified with the advocate (that) we weren’t comfortable with the terms of reference,” he told host Eusebius McKaiser.

The retired rugby player confirmed the issue was not over for him, and he would continue to fight it legally, mentioning that he wanted to be vindicated and for his dignity to be restored.

“I was advised that we should go to the equality court, and understandably so, because that’s to vindicate Ashwin Willemse.

“I will engage and restore my dignity,” he added.

He continued that he did respect the processes that had occured so far despite his decision not to participate in the inquiry.

“Out of respect for them … we should honour the submission that SuperSport has said they will send to the Human Rights Commission,” he said.

READ MORE: Willemse scores distinction for master’s degree, graduates with wife

Willemse went on to say that he felt his pain over the issue, and the pain of many others who had expressed support, was legitimate.

“I understand the magnitude of what has transpired; it’s evident on my Twitter timeline and my Facebook inbox,” he said.

“I understand this moment and what it has started.”

“I see this in the teary eyes of elderly folk when I meet them on the street and they say ‘thanks for standing up for me,'” Willemse continued.

Explaining why he will continue to fight the matter legally, Willemse said: “I’m hoping the process will be able to conclude it for all of us and either legitimise or illegitimise what many of us believe is our legitimate pain.”

Willemse added that he hoped that by pursuing the matter he would be assisting not only himself, saying he saw the process as “An opportunity to take our country to where we all believe it can go.”

The ex-Springbok wing, who played at two World Cups, mentioned that he had reached out to his former co-hosts.

“I’ve reached out to Nick and to Naas because I’ve seen the effect this process (has had) on my family. In terms of reconciliation, I reached out,” he said.

It was reported that Mallett told SuperSport management prior to the incident that he did not wish to work with Willemse because he didn’t do enough preparation and “speaks rubbish” on air.

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