Ashwin Willemse – did he infringe the dignity, respect, and standing of Nick Mallet and Naas Botha?

INTRODUCTION

The independent review into the Ashwin Willemse walk-out has found that the conduct of Nick Mallett and Naas Botha “does not manifest naked racism”. The former Springbok rugby wing walked off of the SuperSport set in May after he had accused co-hosts Nick Mallett and Naas Botha of patronizing him.

An independent review was conducted by advocate Vincent Maleka SC with the assistance of Wits University’s Professor Adam Habib. The full report can be read here –

The full Ashwin Willemse studio walk-off report

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MY PREVIOUS BLOG POSTS ON THE INCIDENT

I have already written five blog posts featuring the Ashwin Willemse incident. In the firstThe Spur Incident versus that of the Pregnant Women (and yes also that of Ashwin Willemse) I pointed out that doing a Google search on “Ashwin Willemse Supersport Mallet” limited to 19/20 May 2018 I was startled to find 3 090 results compared to only 4 Google results for the first two days after which a CEO assualted a pregnant women. In the second postThe Ashwin Willemse Discussion I would love Eusebius McKaiser to listen to I compared how Eusebius McKaiser on his 702 Talk Show dealt with the incident compared to a similar discussion on the matter on the Gareth Cliff Show. In the third postAshwin Willemse and the critics of South African rugby in the 1980’s I highlighted what certain commentators wrote in opinion pieces, following the incident, about rugby in South Africa in the 1980’s and pointed out certain key instances where they have not been accurate with the truth and questioned why the need to support their points of view with falsehoods.

In the last two blog posts Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 1 (1971 to 1976) and Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 2 (1977 to 1990). I firstly provided an overview of international matches involving the Proteas [being the representative side of the South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF)], and the Leopards [being the representative side of the South African Rugby Association (SARA)] for the period 1971 to 1976 to demonstrate that even before unification in 1977, rugby already made some progress in moving to non-racialism in the sport, and secondly I highlighted some of the milestones achieved under the umbrella of SARB towards non-racial rugby in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s.

THE FINDINGS OF THE MALEKA REPORT

The Maleka Report into the incident is well written and easy to follow and it’s clear that Advocate Maleka went to great lengths to try and get to the bottom of the incident. He  concluded that he could find no evidence of naked racism on the part of Messrs Mallet and Botha and that he based his conclusions on the following considerations:

  • What Messrs Botha and Mallett conveyed to Mr. Willemse during the off-air incident was not based on a belief held by them of superiority, based on their race or skin colour, or cultural or social background. They were motivated by a common concern that Mr. Willemse was not afforded enough time to express his analysis before the commencement of the live broadcast of the Lions/Brumbies rugby match.
  • Both of them confirmed that they did not use or direct overt racist terms such as “quota player” when they engaged with Mr. Willemse during the off-air incident. They also indicated that they did not reference their past background and achievement in the sport of rugby during years of apartheid or sports segregation in their off-air conversation with Mr. Willemse.
  • Second, there is nothing in the audio-visual clip of the post-match studio broadcast of 19 May 2018 which reveals utterances by Messrs Botha and Mallett of naked racism directed towards Mr. Willemse. Ms. Mohcno heard what Messrs Botha and Mallett said to Mr. Willemse. Mr. Monale also heard what they said during the live broadcast. Both Ms. Mohono and Mr. Monale did not regard or consider the utterances of Messrs Botha and Mallett to Mr. Willemse as being racist.
  • Third, Advocate Maleka placed weight on the collective opinion of Ms Mohono and Mr Monale. The opinion that there was no overt racism is held by persons across race and gender diversity who would ordinarily be sensitive to utterances that are overtly racist. The fact that they did not hold such an opinion is weighty enough, in his view.

  • Fourth, during his interview with the CEOs of MultiChoice and SuperSport on 21 May 2018, Mr.Willemse was asked whether he considered the conduct of Messrs Botha and Mallett to be motivated by racism. Mr. Willemse indicated that he did not regard their conduct as racist. Mr. Willemse was also asked whether he considered Messrs Botha and Mallett to be racists. He indicated that they were not, in his view. He was then asked whether he would be prepared to still work with them. He indicated a willingness to do so.

With regards to subtle racism (also called microaggressions), Advocate Maleka found no evidence of this playing any part. Messrs Mallet and Botha conduct were not motivated by malevolent intent, or a desire to hurt  Mr. Willemse and there is a rational explanation or justification for their conduct.

This is in line with my own initial assessment of what happened in the studioand as I reported in The Ashwin Willemse Discussion I would love Eusebius McKaiser to listen to. I also listened and viewed the video of the incident again and again with a very attentive ear to try and pick up any subtle racism (or microaggressions), whether covert or not, on the part of Nick Mallet and Naas Botha that can be viewed as either condescending or patronizing but could not identify any.

It should be noted that the concept of microaggressions (or subtle racism) is not without its critics as alluded to in this article The trouble with ‘microaggressions’ wherein its author, Emory University psychologist Scott Lilienfield, casts a critical eye over the concept and the evidence on which it rests. He questions how microaggressions are defined and assessed. He observes that the concept’s meaning is nebulous, to the point that there is no agreed understanding of what it includes and excludes. Any manner of experiences could in principle find shelter under its broad umbrella.

He concluded that “microaggression” is not the best way to think about subtle prejudice. Its definition is amorphous and elastic. It fails to appreciate the ambiguity of social interaction, relies too exclusively on subjective perceptions, and too readily ascribes hostile intent. By doing so, the idea of microaggression contributes to a punitive and accusatory environment that is more likely to create backlash than social progress.

Is this not exactly what happened in this incident? Those that crucified Nick Mallet and Naas Botha did not take into consideration the ambiguity of the social interaction that took place on the day in the studio, relied on their own subjective prejudices and immediately ascribed hostile intent on the part of Naas Botha and Nick Mallet against Ashwin Willemse. This created and accusatory environment against all concerned, including Ashwin Willemse, that created more of a negative backlash than contributing in any way to social progress.

DID ASHWIN WILLEMSE INFRINGE THE DIGNITY OF NICK MALLET AND NAAS BOTHA?

This brings me to another angle, and that is how Ashwin Willemse, granted when being upset about something which I will come to later, infringed on the dignity, respect, and standing of Nick Mallet and Naas Botha by attacking their reputation as rugby players who according to him, only played segregated rugby in the Apartheid era. As for Naas Botha, he is one of the few SA rugby players inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame as he was in his own right a player of exceptional talent and recognised internationally as one of the games best flyhalves ever. He also did not just play rugby in the Apartheid era so Ashwin Willemse is wrong on this point, but also after 1990 when he captained the Springboks in tests against the All Blacks, Wallabies and France.

As for Nick Mallet he played in only two tests in the 1980’s due to South Africa’s sporting isolation, but his real claim to fame is when he capably and with distinction, coached the Springboks in the post-Apartheid era, and from 1998 to 2000, equaling the All Blacks long-standing world record of 17 undefeated international tests. His reputation is therefore not based mainly on being a former Springbok player which Ashwin Willemse lashed out against, but that of a post-Apartheid coach who ably coached the Springboks in this capacity to many victories.

In addition, and as pointed out in my blog posts Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 1 (1971 to 1976) and Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 2 (1977 to 1990). rugby under the South African Rugby Board (SARB) banner was played on non-racial, and therefore not a segregated basis, from 1977 onwards. Both Naas Botha and Nick Mallet, therefore, played their rugby yes, mainly during the Apartheid era, but not on a racial or segregated basis as claimed by Ashwin Willemse.

Ashwin Willemse, therefore, has a lot to answer for how he acted out against Naas Botha and Nick Mallet in the manner that he did. He could have taken his grievance up with the management of SuperSport afterwards, who would have had to investigate the matter in terms of their relevant procedures. In acting out as he did, he in my view unfairly impinged the dignity, respect, and standing of Nick Mallet and Naas Botha and that on a public platform where they could not defend themselves.

CONCLUSION

Almost on cue following the release of the report Eusebius tweeted as follows:

“I read every sentence of the #AshwinWillemse report. It’s amazing how 1652 Twitter ignore the FULL detail. Adv. Vincent Maleka SC is clear that his findings aren’t binding AND that Supersport should refer racism claims to the Human Rights Commission for final resolution.”

In response to this Max du Preez rightly tweeted “That it’s hypocritical to loudly protest against the EFF’s crude ethnic chauvinism one day and to refer to “1652 Twitter” the next”.

As for Ashwin Willemse, his lawyer revealed that he will approach the Equality Court to rule on the matter as he feels that Maleka’s investigation was ‘not the forum to voice his concerns’. His lawyer further indicated that the process was a fruitless exercise and that they believe the whole incident is rooted in racism. This despite Ashwin Willemse indicating in the initial SuperSport investigation that he did not regard the conduct of Messrs Botha and Mallett as racists and that he did not consider Messrs Botha and Mallett to be racists.

So if the conduct of Naas Botha and Nick Mallet was not racists as found by the thorough Maleka investigation and as confirmed by Ashwin Willemse himself, what then to make of the statement that the whole incident, rather than the conduct of Messrs Botha and Mallet in itself, is rooted in racism? All will, of course, be revealed in due time in the arguments put in front of the Equality Court, but I would not be surprised if it does not have to do with a rugby-based difference of opinion on whether Elton Jantjies versus somebody like Handre Pollard, is the best South African flyhalf with Ashwin Willemse arguing that Naas Botha and Nick Mallet are biased against rugby players of colour and always questioning their rugby playing ability whilst always favouring white players and not questioning their ability or form.

It’s a well-known fact that Ashwin Willemse has a soft spot for Elton Jantjies. In this light there is a telling part in the Maleka report which read as follows:

  • Next, the anchor introduced a topic for commentary. It related to the changes made to the Lion’s side and invited the analyst’s views thereon.
  • Mr Mallett provided a detailed analysis of the changes, and his analysis proceeded for approximately one minute. Thereafter, the anchor turned to Mr Botha and invited him to comment on the form of Mr Elton Jantjies, who plays for the Lions. Mr Botha provided his analysis against the background of live pictures from the stadium, depicting the warm up by Mr Jantjies. Now and then Mr Mallett would add his views to the points made by Mr Botha, in a manner that revealed a collegial conversation between them. The inputs from both takes about few minutes.
  • Then, the anchor suddenly announces that it is time to join the live broadcast of the match at the Emirates Airline Park stadium.
  • Throughout the pre-match commentary, Mr Willemse did not have the opportunity to provide a pre-match analysis. He stood next to a touch screen television monitor and listened to the analyses of his colleagues, as they were led by the anchor.

My guess is, although I have not had the opportunity to listen to or view the pre-match or half-time match analysis , that Ashwin Willemse, more likely than not, took umbrage to something negative either Naas Botha or Nick Mallet said about the form of Elton Jantjies in the pre-match analysis and that this further confirmed his belief that they are by nature biased against players of colour. This coupled with the fact that, due to circumstances beyond anybody’s control, he had no chance to contribute to the pre-match analysis and therefore not being able to contribute to the discussion on Elton Jantjie’s form, might have been what upset him so much to react the way he did in the post-match analysis. It’s of course pure speculation on my side at this stage, but it makes sense when viewed in the context of what happened on the day as explained in detail in the Maleka report.

 

 

 

 

 

Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 2 (1977 to 1990)

In a previous blog post, The Ashwin Willemse incident and the many critics of South African rugby in the 1980’s , I concluded that, maybe those so critical of South African rugby in the 1980’s like Gareth Stead, Pieter du Toit and Christi van der Westhuizen and others, are not fully aware of the strides made during that period already in starting to transform the sport, which yes still far from the ideal, in part laid the foundation for the post-Apartheid era of in rugby in South Africa and the full unification of the sport in 1992. I want to therefore highlight some of the milestones achieved in this regard (whilst fully acknowledging that it will not be a complete picture as SARU did not participate in any SARB sanctioned tournaments in the 1970’s/1980’s).

As background, rugby in South Africa was for a large part played on a segregated basis from 1886 until 1977. Separated rugby unions existed for the different racial groups during this period, the names of which changed a number of times over the years. This changed in November 1977, when the then coloured South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF), black South African Rugby Association (SARA) and white South African Rugby Board (SARB) amalgamated to form the non-racial South African Rugby Board. This unification meant that players of colour of the former SARFF and SARA unions could play in the mainstream competitions of the new non-racial SARB, which was affiliated to the International Rugby Board (IRB). The South African Rugby Union (SARU), under the leadership of Dullah Abass, on the other hand decided not to be part of the unification process and continued under the leadership of the South African Council on Sport (SACOS) to make a case for “no normal sport in an abnormal society”.

In part 1 of this blog post Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 1 (1971 to 1976) , I provided an overview of international matches involving the Proteas being the representative side of the South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF), and the Leopards being the representative side of the South African Rugby Association (SARA) for the period 1971 to 1976. The purpose was to demonstrate that even before unification in 1977, rugby already made progress in moving to non-racialism in the sport.

In this part 2 of the blog post I will highlight some of the milestones achieved under the umbrella of SARB towards non-racial rugby in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s.

NON-RACIAL RUGBY AFTER THE UNIFICATION IN 1977

1977 – Players of colour took part for the first time in the national rugby trials in Pretoria to elect the Springbok team to play against a World XV (the selectors were also racially mixed). This included Errol Tobias, Piet Boonzaaier, Hennie and Turkey Shields, Hannes Meyer, Louis Paulse, Randy Marinus (Randy Marinus: Een van rugby se onbesonne helde) and Charles Williams from the former SARFF and a number of other players from the former SARA.

SARU forbade its players to take part in the trials, though three did. None of the SARFF  or SARA players made the Springbok side but Hennie Shields was chosen for the Gazelles and Errol Tobias and Turkey Shields for the SA Country XV.

In that year, too, all grounds where SARB matches were played were open to all races.

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Randy Marinus in action – He played against the 1976 All Blacks at the age of 19. He later decided to continue his career under the SACOS affiliated SARU. 

1977 – Timothy Nkonki and Hennie Shields selected alongside the Northern Transvaal captain, Thys Lourens, to travel to Argentina to be part of an Invitation XV to play in the centenary celebrations of the Club Atletico San Isidro.

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Hennie Shields (right) with a visitor outside the SA Rugby Museum

1977 – Timothy Nkonki and Morne du Plessis participate in a festival match in France.

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Joe Morgan getting scythed down by Mncendi Mnqatu (left) and Timothy Nkonki in a match between the 1976 All Blacks and the Leopards

1978 – Timothy Nkonki, Andrew Msuki and Solomon Mhlaba and a number of coloured players from the former SARFF participates in the Springbok trials ahead of the tour by France. Tour however cancelled with many saying that it robbed Nkonki from the opportunity to become the first black Springbok.

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Solomon Mhlaba

1978 – Two black teams from the former SARA as well as two coloured teams of the former SARFF participates in the Sport Pienaar Competition that catered for the second tier provincial unions in South Africa. They were SARA West, SARA East, WP league and SWD league. They played against teams like South Western District, Eastern Transvaal, Northern Free State and the like.  Other than the WP League under Dougie Deyers, the other teams found the going tough.

Dougie Deyers played more than a hundred matches for WP League and 38 for the Proteas, including matches against England (1972) and the British Lions (1974). In 1971 he was the captain of the Proteas team that toured the UK and England (for more on this see part 1 of this blog post – Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 1 (1971 to 1976) .

He was also a national selector from 1977 through to 1991 and in the post-Apartheid era from 1993 to 1995.

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Dougie Deyers

1978 – The American Cougars (also known as the USA Cougars or United States Cougars) is the only rugby union team from the United States ever to beat a reigning Currie Cup championship team in South Africa. A combined and invitational side from the United States, the Cougars toured South Africa and Zimbabwe in 1978. On 12 August 1978 they lost 12-44 to a racially mixed South African Country Districts XV side at East London. Some 5,500 spectators watched as future Springbok Errol Tobias contributed two tries to the Districts’ total and aided in the scoring of two others.

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The Cougars touring team to South Africa

1979 – The SARA West and SARA East teams combined to play in the Sport Pienaar competition. In the years to follow they, and the SWD League decided not to participate in the competition, but rather in the Golden Cup competition against teams of semi-provincial stature.

1979 – WP League continues to play in the Sport Pienaar competition and ended fourth in Conference 1 after winning four of their seven matches against stronger second-tier provincial teams.

1979 – Possibly the most significant event for the SA Barbarain rugby club was the first multiracial South African rugby team to tour outside South Africa when it went to the United Kingdom in October 1979. The tour squad had eight white players (SARB), eight coloured players (SARFF – Hennie and Turkey Shields, Nicky Davids, Charles Williams, Louis Paulse, Hannes Meyer, Errol Tobias and Pompies Williams) and eight black players (SARA/SARU – Morgan Cushe, Timothy Nkonki, Lillee Jonas, Sydney Ncate, Bridgman Sonto, Welcome Mtyongwe, Solomon Mhlaba and Arthur Poro) and was managed by Chick Henderson. Attempts were made from the start to integrate the squad’s three ethnic groups, with six of the eight white Barbarians rooming with black or coloured teammates on the first overnight stay. The squad was coached in English despite only two of the twenty four using English as their first language whilst tour singing was often in Xhosa.

The South African Barbarians take on Devon in 1979

SA Barbarians take on Devon in the opening match of their UK tour

Seven fixtures were played; the results were as follows:

  • Weds 3 October 1979 – Devon (Exeter) W 27-18
  • Sat 6 October 1979 – Cornwall (Camborne) W 23-7
  • Weds 10 October 1979 – Scottish Border Club (Galashiels) D 20-20
  • Sun 14 October 1979 – Co-Optimists (Hawick) L 4-24
  • Weds 17 October 1979 – Coventry W 41-24
  • Weds 24 October 1979 – Llanelli W 15-6
  • Sat 27 October 1979 – Newport L 15-21

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The SA Barbarian team in action

The tour was a great success and seven of the members of the 1979 SA Barbarians went on the play for the Springboks including Errol Tobias.

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The SA Barbarian team in action

1979 – On the 1979 Barbarian tour to the UK Morgan Cushe became the 1st Black person to captain a representative South African team in the match against Cornwall which the Barbarians won 23-7.

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Morgan Cushe

1979 – World Invitation XV toured South Africa under captaincy of All Black Frank Oliver. They played seven matches including matches against a Craven XV, Transvaal and Northern Transvaal. The XV included a few South Africans including Hennie Shields, Errol Tobias and Ray Mordt.

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International XV – 1979

1979 – Norman Mbiko (A legend in our lifetime) plays his last international game when he captained the Eastern Province Invitation XV, against Newport in Wales.

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Norman Mbiko

1980 – The Craven Week become racially mixed. The Craven Week is an annual rugby union tournament organised for schoolboys in South Africa. The tournament started in July 1964, and is named after the legendary Springbok rugby union player and coach Dr Danie Craven.

1980 – On Wednesday 4 June 1980 the South African Country Districts XV team lost 7-27 at Windhoek’s South-West Stadium to the Lions on their tour of South Africa. A crowd of 9,000 saw replacement Charles Williams score a try and fly-half Errol Tobias add a penalty to complete the Districts’ score. Jim Renwick, Gareth Williams, Clive Woodward and Colm Tucker scored a try each for the visitors, while Gareth Davies added 11 points through a conversion and three penalties.

1980 – History will record that a SARA XV, nominally a Leopards XV , recorded a second defeat at the hands of the British and Irish Lions of 1980 by a margin of 28 – 6. Veteran flanker Morgan Cushe, who had played in the corresponding 1974 fixture captained the side although with a smattering of white Northern Transvaal and Western Province players beefing up the pack in accordance with the Lion’s expressed wish to play multiracial sides, the team departed from what some at the time considered its African XV origins.

1980 – A South African XV looses to the British and Irish Lions 22-19 at Olën Park, Potchefstroom. The SA XV featured Hennie Shields, Frankie Davids, Hannes Meyer and Timothy Nkonki.

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Some of the SA XV that played against the 1980 British and Irish Lions

1980 – Billy Beaumont’s British and Irish Lions touring side of 1980 defeated a Proteas XV 15–6 in front of a crowd of 15,000 at the Danie Craven Stadium on 27 May 1980. The nomenclature Proteas XV is of import here and the distinction is made since whilst the Proteas’ running backline included notable SARFF star players such as Ronnie Louw, John Noble, Hennie Shields, Charles Williams, Frankie Davids, Errol Tobias (who notched two penalties on the day) and Attie Lategan, the Proteas’ forward pack’s front five was composed entirely of white Western Province players.

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1981 British Lions vs Proteas

1980 – Errol Tobias was included at centre in the South African Barbarians team that lost 25- 14 to the British Lions at Kings Park on 2 July 1980. His teammates included Argentinian Hugo Porta and three players of colour, Francois Davids, Charles Williams and Solomon Mhlaba.

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Francois Davids

1980 – Tobias elected as a member of the Springbok touring party to South America in October 1980 making him the first black Springbok. The Springbok touring party was denied visas to enter Argentina. As a result all tour matches were played in Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile and drew crowds as small as one hundred. Errol did not feature in any of the two tests on the tour.

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Springbok Errol Tobias

There was some opposition to Tobias’ inclusion from both black and white communities. Some within his own community in Caledon felt he should not play as long as apartheid policies existed, while some white people wanted Tobias excluded.

Remembering that time, Tobias said: “We had no say in politics. We didn’t even have a vote, so all I knew at that stage was to play rugby. My goal was to show the country and the rest of the world that we had black players who were equally as good, if not better, than the whites, and that if you are good enough you should play.”

1980 –  As part of the tour to South America, South Africa beat a Chilean Invitation XV by 78-12 in a match that saw Errol Tobias kicking 10 conversions to become the first black man to kick a goal in a Springbok jersey of the SA Rugby Board.

This also came after he became the first black player to wear the Springbok jersey when he played against a Paraguayan Invitation XV, and the first to score a try in the jersey after scoring against British Schools Old Boys.

1980 – The Mbabalas (“bushbucks”) team consisted of African players sent on a tour of the United Kingdom and United States of America in 1980, by the SA Rugby Board.  By the nature of it, this tour was meant to promote the newly established multi-racial SARB which came into being in November 1977. 

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Team jersey of the 1980  Mbabalas

1980 – In the beginning of the 1980’s, Danie Craven appointed Ian Kirkpatrick, and along with first Abie Williams and then Dougie Deyers, Piet Kellerman and others (including several Springboks), they took rugby to every corner of South Africa. Their mission was to change South Africa on the rugby field by promoting racially mixed rugby. The tool that they used was coaching clinics. These efforts continued for most of the 1980’s.

1981 – WP League joined the Western Province on a trail basis, and from 1984 onward on a permanent basis.

1981 – The Irish toured South Africa in 1981 and in their first fixture, saw them take on a strong SA Gazelles team, basically the Junior Springboks, with Wilfred Cupido of Western Province in the team who beat the Irish 18-15.

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The SA Gazelle team against the Irish – 1981

1981 – In their second fixture, the Irish took on a fairly underwhelming opposition in the guise of the Gold Mining Invitation XV. Solomon Mhlaba, a tourist to the UK with the 1979 SA Barbarians started at full back for the GMI XV but he saw little of the ball to demonstrate his attacking prowess as Ireland ran in seven tries with John Murphy contributing a total of eighteen points via his boot from fullback.

1981 – Errol Tobias selected at centre for the Springboks to play against the touring Irish team making him the first black Springbok to play in a test match. In the first test at Newlands on 30 May, a crowd of 37,000 watched as Tobias broke, then gave an inside pass to Rob Louw, who scored.

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Errol Tobias before his 1st test against the Irish – 1981

1981 – Tobias was a member of the Springbok squad that toured New Zealand in 1981 under controversial circumstances, but did not feature in any of the three tests.

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Errol Tobias playing in New Zealand – 1981

1982 – Avril Williams and Wilfred Cupido selected to play for Western Province, with many other players of colour following in their footsteps to play provincial rugby.

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Wilfred Cupido (far left) playing for Western Province

1982 – A Five Nations XV tours South Africa to play at the official opening of the revamped Ellispark stadium. They played against a SA Presidents XV which by all intents were a full strength Springbok team. The players of colour in the SA XV team was Errol Tobias, Avril Williams, Wilfred Cupido and Jerome Paarwater.

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SA Presidents XV

1983 – Anglo-American sponsored the Mbabalas, this time a multi-racial team consisting of 10 white and 13 Black players, to tour the United States of America for almost four weeks. They played seven matches including a repeat match against the Dallas Harlequins.

One of the most notable players who emerged from the tours by the Mbabalas (“bushbucks”) was Timothy Nkonki, who made his mark by first obtaining national representative colours as a SARA Leopard but also turned out for a World XV against France in Paris 1975 under the captaincy of Morné du Plessis, to mark the 75th anniversary of the French Rugby Federation.  Nkonki also played against the 1975 French, 1976 All Blacks, British Lions as well as representing the South African Barbarians on their tour to the United Kingdom in 1979 (for more on this see part 1 of this blog post – Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 1 (1971 to 1976) .

1984 – The 1984 Springbok team against England contained no less than two players of colour namely Errol Tobias and Avril Williams.

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Avril Williams playing against England

With Tobias pulling the strings at flyhalf, the Springboks beat the tourists 33-15 in Port Elizabeth.

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Springboks versus England – Ellispark

This was followed up with a 35-9 win at Ellispark in Johannesburg.

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Errol Tobias playing against England

In the second test Tobias scored a spectacular try in the Ellispark corner where I have been sitting as a twenty-one year old watching the test, with Avril Williams also having a hand in a flowing Springbok movement. As he raced to score the try the whole of the Ellispark East Stand rose with him. He divided to score and stood up facing his team-mates, arms aloft in a giant ‘V’ as if to symbolize that he had conquered – racial barriers on the one side, and accusations of tokenism on the other.

His performance in the 2nd test made headlines with many national newspapers proclaiming “Errol Tobias: Pure Gold”.

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Errol Tobias: Pure Gold

1984 – The Country Districts XV side played against both the 1984 touring English and South American Jaguar sides. The team was drawn from players of all races competing in the Sport Pienaar Cup, losing both fixtures 33-12 and 30-18 respectively.

1984 – Errol Tobias elected to play in both tests against the visiting South Americans in October 1984. The Springboks won the first test 32-15 and the second 22-13.

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Errol Tobias in action against the South Americans

1984 – Five years later on and the SA Barbarians undertook their second overseas tour, this time to West Germany. The touring party of twenty five was composed of twelve white and thirteen coloured and black players. Four fixtures were played (in Bonn, Wiedenbruck, Hannover and Heidelberg ) 314 points were scored and only 27 conceded. South African “sides” had toured Southern Germany in 1974 and 1977 but this was the first multiracial tour to the Federal Republic which received official support and was seen as a reciprocal visit to the unofficial West German tour to South Africa in 1983 (under the guise of a Bonner XV).

1984 – Towards the end of 1984 Errol Tobias played against England for an RFU Presidents XV together with Rob Louw, Danie Gerber and Rudi Visagie.

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Errol Tobias playing for the RFU Presidents XV

1984 – Wilfred Cupido, a coloured player selected for the Boks internal tour in 1985, played against a Wales XV for a Presidents XV captained by Rob Louw.

1985 – WP League missed promotion to the Currie Cup competition by a whisker.

1985 – Mbabalas, a multi-racial team played the visiting USA Chicago Lions in Welkom.

1985 – Four black players invited to take part in the Springbok trials for the upcoming All Black tour. Tour however cancelled due to political pressure in New Zealand.

1985 – In 1985 the Springboks undertook and internal tour after a visit by the All Blacks was cancelled. Dolly Ntaka became the 1st ethnic black person to be selected for the Springboks. Unfortunately as it was an internal tour no official colours were awarded and Ntaka lost out to be recognized as the 1st ethnic black Springbok. Wilfred Cupido from Western Province was also in the team.

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Dolly Ntaka in Springbok colours

1985 – In the final match of their internal tour the Springboks beat the SA Barbarians by 30-18.

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Dolly Ntaka playing for the Springboks against the SA Barbarians

A number of players of colour played for the SA Barbarians including Michael Mboto.

Michael Mboto

Michael Mboto

1987 – During the rebel South Sea Barbarians’ 13 match tour (a team made up of representatives from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and one Canadian in 1987, organised in lieu of the cancelled visit by Australia, the SA Barbarians played two unofficial test matches. The 1987 SA Barbarians lineup had a far more distinct Springbok XV feel to it despite some senior players questioning the quality of the opposition. The South Sea tourists were defeated 56-30 at Ellis Park but pushed their hosts considerably closer at Kings Park one week later in a narrower 38-32 loss.

1987 – The South Sea Barbarians’ played against the Proteas and drew 25 – 25 as well as the Leopards who they beat 46 – 11

1998 – Greater rugby unification gained further momentum on 7 May 1988 when representatives of SARB and SARU met at the Cape Sun in Cape Town to discuss the way forward for rugby in South Africa.

1988 – In 1988 a multiracial side (the SA Barbarians in all but name – they toured as the Nampak Pioneers) eventually undertook a six match visit to Chile and Paraguay after a series of postponements and rescheduling. Home sides were intended to be bolstered by considerable Argentinian and Uruguayan representation – which did not come to pass and consequently a series of one sided encounters took place with over 100 points being scored against the respective national sides.

CONCLUSION

In two blog posts I provided an overview of international matches involving the Proteas being the representative side of the coloured South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF), and the Leopards being the representative side of the black South African Rugby Association (SARA) for the period 1971 to 1976, and highlighted some of the milestones achieved under the umbrella of SARB towards non-racial rugby in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s.

The purpose was to demonstrate that even before and especially after the unification of 1977, rugby made great progress in moving to non-racialism in the sport and that it is therefore not correct to state that Naas Botha and Nick Mallet played segregated rugby in the 1980’s under Apartheid.

 

Non-Racial Rugby in South Africa: 1971 to 1990 – Part 1 (1971 to 1976)

In a previous blog post Ashwin Willemse and the critics of South African rugby in the 1980’s I concluded that, maybe those so critical of South African rugby in the 1980’s like Gareth Stead, Pieter du Toit and Christi van der Westhuizen and others, are not fully aware of the strides made during that period already in starting to transform the sport, which yes still far from the ideal, in part laid the foundation for the post-Apartheid era of in rugby in South Africa and the full unification of the sport in 1992. I want to therefore highlight some of the milestones achieved in this regard (whilst fully acknowledging that it will not be a complete picture as SARU did not participate in any SARB sanctioned tournaments in the 1970’s/1980’s).

As background, rugby in South Africa was for a large part played on a segregated basis from 1886 until 1977. Separated rugby unions existed for the different racial groups during this period, the names of which changed a number of times over the years. This changed in November 1977, when the then coloured South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF), black South African Rugby Association (SARA) and white South African Rugby Board (SARB) amalgamated to form the non-racial South African Rugby Board. This unification meant that players of colour of the former SARFF and SARA unions could play in the mainstream competitions of the new non-racial SARB, which was affiliated to the International Rugby Board (IRB). The South African Rugby Union (SARU), under the leadership of Dullah Abass, on the other hand decided not to be part of the unification process and continued under the leadership of the South African Council on Sport (SACOS) to make a case for “no normal sport in an abnormal society”.

I will in this first of two blog post provide an overview of international matches involving the Proteas [being the representative side of the South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF)], and the Leopards [being the representative side of the South African Rugby Association (SARA)] for the period 1971 to 1976. The purpose is to demonstrate that even before unification in 1977, rugby already made some progress in moving to non-racialism in the sport.

I will follow it up with a second blog post to highlight some of the milestones achieved under the umbrella of SARB towards non-racial rugby in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s.

NON-RACIAL RUGBY PRIOR TO UNIFICATION IN NOVEMBER 1977

1971 – In December 1971 the Proteas embarked on a six-match tour of Britain and Holland – the first “coloured” rugby team to tour abroad. They achieved two wins, a draw and three losses. Cuthbert Loriston, the Proteas’ team manager and SARFF’s first president, explained that the purpose of the tour was ” ‘to test our strength’ and that the two wins, a draw, and three losses proved that ” ‘we have the technical know-how and enthusiasm to build strong opposition within the next five years'”. Loriston said that the next steps would be to play against white teams that tour South Africa, such as England’s intended visit in 1972; to play white South African teams; and then move towards integration of sports.

1972 – On 22 May 1972, the Proteas side lost narrowly 11 – 6 to John Pullin’s touring England side in Cape Town. England had undertaken a short, unbeaten seven match tour to the Republic and whilst the headlines in the UK were mostly about his side’s shock 18–9 test match victory against the Springboks, it should be noted that the Proteas versus England fixture is the first reported international rugby match in which coloureds played against whites on South African soil.

1972 – On 24 May 1972 the Leopards played against John Pullin’s touring England side in Port Elizabeth, losing by 36 – 3. The team was captained by Norman Mbiko Never-say-die Mbiko.

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Captain Norman Mbiko in action against the England touring side.

1973 – The Leopards played a test against the touring Italian national team in Port Elizabeth. For the Italians, who were undertaking a tour of the then Rhodesia and South Africa, it was only the second time that the Azzuris had ventured outside of Europe after a short tour of Madagascar, their 24-4 victory against the Leopards amounted to their only success of the nine matches played.

1974 – On Tuesday 4 June 1974 the Proteas played against the touring British Lions side at the Goodwood Showground in Cape Town. Fly-half Errol Tobias scored the only points (a penalty and a drop-kick) for the Proteas, who were beaten 37 – 6 by the visitors. The team included Hennie Shields, John Noble, Turkey Shields, and Doug Dyers. For the Lions, centre Dick Milliken, wing JPR Williams, lock Gordon Brown, flank and captain Fergus Slattery scored a try each. Fullback Andy Irvine (a conversion, three penalty kicks) and fly-half Alan Old (two penalties) also contributed.

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Errol Tobias in Protea colours 

1974 – On 9 July 1974 the Leopards met the British Lions at Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdtantsane. The team was captained by hooker Thompson Magxala and included lock Liston Ntshongwana and Morgan Cushe at 8th Man. The lightweight Leopards were no match, losing 56-10 and often pleading with the referee not to award scrums against them. Still, they had talent: Toto Tsotsobe was a quicksilver winger, and Charles Mgweba a dangerous three-quarter. Their chief attacking weapon, however, was Morgan Cushe; the clash at Mdantsane would be the making of him.

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Willie John McBride leading out the Lions at the  Sisa Dukashe Stadium

Cushe was a master of the open game and prospered against the Lions, making a nuisance of himself defensively and intercepting a pass, only to be hauled down agonizingly short of the line. In one of the Leopards’ few attacking moves he hared downfield to hysterical shouts from the crowd before slipping the ball to Mgweba to score. The Springboks hadn’t managed a try in two tests, and the provinces were finding it increasingly difficult to breach the Lions’ line. For the 30 000 crowd the try was as sweet as a victory.

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Lions full-back Andy Irvine shaking hands with a Leopards captain, Thomas Magxala, after the match

1974 – The Leopards undertook the first tour by a black South African rugby team abroad when they embarked on their reciprocal month-long tour of Italy in 1974. The Leopards were also “the first South African team to tour Italy”. The squad had 25 players and played in six fixtures, winning one against Zebre in Milan, drawing against the Italian U23 side and losing four including a 25-10 defeat in the “test” defeat against the Italian national side in Brescia, the only occasion when the margin of loss was by more than one score.

Morgan Cushe in this article Selling out or scrumming down? describes the tour to Italy as one of his best rugby moments.

“His happiest tour was arguably to Italy with the Leopards in the months prior to the famous Mdantsane match against the Lions, when the Leopards played against Brescia, Lazio, the Dogi (an invitation side) and the Italians themselves on a six-match tour.

Finding himself in Rome on a day off, the girls chic and the cappuchinos smooth, Cushe spotted a jacket he just had to buy. Speaking no Italian, he looked frantically for the team’s bus driver, Luciano, to act as interpreter and find out the price. Luciano was nowhere to be found and at first Cushe lacked the courage to open up a conversation in pidgin Italian, worrying that the jacket might be bought by someone else.

But, eventually, he could wait no longer. He spent most of his meagre allowance on the purchase, bringing it home to South Africa like the blazer he never had.”

1975 – This year saw the French undertake an eleven match tour to South Africa which included two tests. Many of the 1974 Leopard team featured against the touring French side on 2 June 1975 when the teams met in Mdantsane with the French emerging as comfortable winners, 39-9.

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Morgan Cushe playing for the Leopards against the French touring side in 1975.

The captain of the Leopards against the French, Mpenduli “Liston” Ntshongwana, passed away in 2017 and SA Rugby paid tribute to former national skipper . He had pace, excellent handling skills and a massive kicking range. Contemporary sport writers described Ntshongwana as being “able to transform a beaten side into a lively set” and a versatile player as well as “a good leader, he runs well with the ball and tackles effectively”. Renowned former rugby historian, the late Vuyisa Qunta, listed Ntshongwana as one of the best Number 7 flankers in African rugby and therefore a sure choice for his ‘dream team’ after Ben Malamba.

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Mpenduli “Liston” Ntshongwana who captained the Leopards against the French

1975 – The French played their third tour fixture against the Proteas at Goodwood in Cape Town on 4 June 1975 winning by a comfortable 37–3 margin.

1975 – It was perhaps the events that unfurled at Newlands some three days which resonated louder when a South African Invitation XV, the first officially mixed-race team (containing white, black and coloured players) ever fielded in South Africa ran out 18–3 winners against the touring French side. Twenty-one-year old John Noble, one of the two Federation (Proteas) players in the side, scored the try of the match, running down the right wing like a shot from a cannon to swallow-dive onto Dawie Snyman’s grubber kick and score in the corner just before half-time. Prop Turkey Shields was the other Federation player in the Invitation XV while the Leopards (SARA) supplied wing Toto Tsotsobe and Morgan Cushe.

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John Noble on the far left together with his teammates (including Morgan Cushe) that would play against the 1976 All Blacks as members of a SA Invitation XV (see post below). Tommy Symons pictured far right played club rugby with my dad.

1976 – During the 1976 All Black tour of South Africa, the Proteas were defeated 25-3 by the tourists on a wet 7 July 1976 at Goodwood Oval in Cape Town before a crowd of 10,000.

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Lyn Jaffray scoring against the Proteas with Ronnie Louw and Clive Noble too late to stop him.

The full-strength All Black team included players such as Laurie Mains, Bill Osborne, Sid Going, Andy Leslie, Frank Oliver and Lawrie Knight. Among the Proteas were John Noble, Ronnie Louw and Charles Williams (who would later go on to represent the South African Barbarians side who toured Britain in 1979).

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Ronnie Louw of the Proteas playing for the SA Invitation XV against the All Blacks

One of the other Protea players was Piet Boonzaaier who played at lock and who described this match against the All Blacks as the highlight of his career, in fact he described it as a test. He passed away in 2017 and in this article Een van SA Rugby se grootes ten ruste gele his former teammates bemoaned the lack of respect he and others that played rugby under SARFF received for what they did for the cause non-racial rugby in South Africa prior to 1990 (both the Western Province Rugby Union and the South African Rugby Union failed to attend his funeral). After 1992 he supported the All Blacks in protest against the fact that the former SARFF players and administrators were sidelined in favour of those that were aligned the SACOS affiliated SARU.

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Piet Boonzaaier

1976 – The 1976 All Blacks touring team played the 4th match of the tour against a SA Invitation XV on 10 July 1976 at Newlands in Cape Town. The SA Invitation team lost 31 -24 and included four persons of colour including Ronnie Louw at full-back, John Noble on the wing, Morgan Cushe at flank and Broadness Cono at hooker.

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The multi-racial SA Invitation XV playing against the 1976 All Blacks, with Morgan Cushe, Ronnie Louw and John Noble looking on as the All Blacks scored a try

1976 – The touring All Blacks were the fifth touring overseas side to play against the Leopards. The fixture which took place on 31 August 1976 saw the New Zealanders running out comfortable winners 31-0 in Mdantsane. The Leopards side still contained seven of the line up which has featured against the 1974 British Isles side.

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Best of pals, Kent Lambert and Broadness Cona leaving the field after the Leopards match at East London. 

This concludes the first blog post about non-racial rugby in South Africa prior to 1990. In the next post I will highlight some of the milestones achieved under the umbrella of SARB towards non-racial rugby in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s.

 

 

 

 

The Ashwin Willemse Discussion I would love Eusebius McKaiser to listen to

NOTE – I updated the article late on 24 May 2018 to correct the wrong use of the word overt when I meant covert in the text below (apologies as English is not my first language) and to add below a link to a critique of the notion of microaggressions. 

In an earlier blog post I wrote about the huge amount of media attention the 2017 Spur incident and that of Ashwin Willemse got, compared to the meager coverage the assault on a pregnant women by the CEO of a SA Company received (The Spur Incident versus that of the Pregnant Women (and yes also that of Ashwin Willemse). In this post I will focus in more detail on the Ashwin Willemse incident and specifically on how Eusebius McKaiser on his 702 Talk Show dealt with the matter compared to a similar discussion on the topic on the Gareth Cliff Show.

I will also briefly look at Eusebius McKaiser’s interview with Kallie Kriel and what this says about him as a public talk show host and how that might have affected the audience figures of 702.

THE GARETH CLIFF SHOW

To start of herewith an audio, extracted from the discussion on the Gareth Cliff Show, on 21 May 2018.

I found the above discussion on the Gareth Cliff Show to be open and frank and taking into consideration the context within which the incident happened. This is in line with the views of  the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Sport and Recreation, Beauty Dlulane, who said that South Africans needed to accept that differences of opinion during sports analysis were inevitable and were the reason panel discussions were constituted.

This aspect was further highlighted by the Supersport CEO Gideon Khobane, who said that Ashwin Willemse and Nick Mallet do not have to agree when talking rugby (https://www.sport24.co.za/Rugby/SuperRugby/willemse-mallett-dont-have-to-agree-supersport-20180521-2).

“In fact, it is better if they don’t. What we’ve always encouraged on our platform is for all our panelists to engage in robust debate…..They don’t have to agree … that’s the point of having three or four panelists … to get different views.”

In a short 12 minute discussion those participating in the discussion on the Gareth Cliff Show made it evident how complex the issues at hand are (compared to Eusebius McKaiser’s single narrative that I will come to later), by looking at the following aspects that all played a role in the incident (I have copied below each of the issues’, specific aspects thereof, that were raised in the discussion, sometimes verbatim):

  1. The fact that it took place in an environment and context of discussing a sport event by a panel, that by nature of the event require the panelist to differ from one another as alluded to above.
  2. The different roles and responsibilities of the panelist on the day.
    • Ashwin Willemse in this instance was the guy on the touch screen and therefore a secondary analyst (not as a person but on this show as he is required to more do the touch screen stuff) with Nick Mallet and Naas Botha being the primary analyst.
  3. The standards by which the panelist must be judged based on their roles and responsibilities on the day.
    • Ashwin Willemse never was a quota player but a dynamic rugby player. But should we care about that because in this instance he, and the other panelists are not being judged on how good he and the others were as a rugby players, but how good he and the other members are as part of a rugby panel in terms of their overall rugby knowledge, passion and appreciation.
  4. The personalities involved and how that might have played a role. 
    • Nick Mallet has a strong personality and is very knowledgeable rugby wise. He does not know when to stop and goes on and on (jokingly referred to as he listens by talking) not because he thinks he is superior, but because he is so passionate about rugby.
    • Nick Mallet is not a malicious guy but a big loud brash kind of guy who is obsessed with rugby. He often talks over people not because he is ignorant or insensitive but because that is his personality.
    • Nick Mallet will take you on which is good for TV because as the audience you want a guy who has the courage and conviction to say what he believes so what he says at times might come over as undermining. He will talk over you sometimes. He talks over Naas Botha and other panelist not in a bad way but because he is so keen to engage on rugby topics (Gareth commenting that is that not what you want from a sport panelist?)
    • Think Ashwin Willemse is not that great on TV not because he is a bad guy but he seems not to gel easily with the other panelists.
    • Naas Botha was a great rugby player but of the older generation, and therefore the TV audience don’t always relate to him.
  5. That all the facts are as yet not on the table to make an informed judgement.
    • All the facts are not yet on the table and people are therefore mainly speculating at this stage. Alleged that Ashwin Willemse was called a quota player off air and if so his actions would make sense but this is mere speculation.
  6. The history of bad vibes between Nick Mallet and Ashwin Willemse.
    • Clear that Nick Mallet and Ashwin Willemse have not exactly been the best of friends.
  7. That perhaps such disagreements on panels discussing a sport event is desirable.
    • So what are people upset about ,with one of the persons on the show saying that she likes controversy as it makes for good TV. It’s real and we find ourselves often in a work setup where people hate each other. Let that come through as it’s the truth.
    • Even on a talk show like this one of us will talk over the other sometimes, because one feels passionate about a particular topic.
  8. That the incident made people jump into their laagers based on race affinity rather than merit.
    • Sad to see that people are saying that Ashwin Willemse is on Tik.
    • People are picking sides not on merit but because Nick Mallet is white so I must support him or Ashwin Willemse is Coloured so I must support him.
  9. The need for SuperSport to shake things up irrespective of the outcome of their investigation.
    • SuperSport must perhaps shake things up as the TV audience don’t relate with Naas Botha anymore and because Nick Mallet overshadows him but you don’t see Naas complaining about it.
  10. The way in which some politicians jumped into the frying pan before having all the facts at their disposal.
    • Why did certain politicians including the Minister of Sport jump the gun and got involved before all the facts are known and thereby making it out as a malicious race matter.
  11. An acknowledgement that Ashwin Willemse was upset and had a right to voice his opinion
    • There must be a reason why Ashwin Willemse got so upset. Maybe for years he has only been seen as a secondary analyst as opposed to Nick Mallet who gets all the limelight and then he talks and talks and talks, and this made Ashwin upset.
  12. That this is rugby after all in which men’s egos plays a big role
    • This is rugby after all, this is guys with egos and all of that.
  13. That perhaps covert racism (or microaggressions to which I will come to later) did not play any role in this instance.
    • Maybe Ashwin Willemse does just not care about Nick Mallet because he feels overshadowed by him given Nick’s strong personality. Nick however does the same to Naas Botha so it’s difficult to see covert racism on the part of Nick and Naas as the main issue at play.

The above 13 issues or aspects were in the main largely ignored by Eusebius McKaiser in his show to which I will come to next.

THE EUSEBIUS MCKAISER TALK SHOW

Herewith a link to the discussion of Eusebius McKaiser on the same topic that also took place on 21 May 2018. The discussion went on for some 30+ minutes with Eusebius taking calls from a number of audience members.

Eusebuis McKaiser – #ImAshwinWillemse

The main gist of the discussion on the Eusebius McKaiser Talk Show was that people of colour experience microaggressions in SA on a daily basis that are condescending and patronizing and which denies them their humanity and rightful place in society.

A microaggression is defined as a subtle (tone of voice, mannerisms, body language, subtle actions etc.)  but offensive comment or action directed at a minority or other non-dominant group (whilst people of colour are in this instance in the majority and politically dominant they are seen still to be in a non-dominant position economically. Even so I find the definition quoted enlightening as it alludes to minorities and not majorities as a group of people that can also suffer microaggressions in society at large) that is often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a given or known stereotype (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/microaggression).

The concept of microaggressions are not with its critics as alluded to in the following article:

The trouble with ‘microaggressions’

The article references a 2017 academic article that offers the most serious and sustained critique of the microaggression concept to date. Its author, Emory University psychologist Scott Lilienfield, casts a critical eye over the concept and the evidence on which it rests. He question how microaggressions are defined and assessed. He observes that the concept’s meaning is nebulous, to the point that there is no agreed understanding of what it includes and excludes. Any manner of experiences could in principle find shelter under its broad umbrella.

The article conclude that “microaggression” is not the best way to think about subtle prejudice. Its definition is amorphous and elastic. It fails to appreciate the ambiguity of social interaction, relies too exclusively on subjective perceptions, and too readily ascribes hostile intent. By doing so, the idea of microaggression contributes to a punitive and accusatory environment that is more likely to create backlash than social progress.

Despite of the above critique of the concept, and given our Apartheid past, I would agree that microaggressions (or then subtle prejudiced or covert racism) against people of colour happens on a daily basis and that this needs to be challenged, but find it difficult to accept that what happened in the SuperSport studio automatically qualifies the discussion as such. I have also listened and viewed the video of the incident again and again with a very attentive ear to try and pick up any microaggressions and acts, whether covert or not, on the part of Nick Mallet and Naas Botha that can be viewed as either condescending or patronizing.

Other than the presenter and Naas Botha giving Ashwin Willemse the opportunity to contribute first, which Ashwin Willemse might have construed as patronizing, but which might just as well have been an honest attempt to allow him more airtime, and Nick Mallet and Naas Botha laughing when Ashwin declined to contribute and when he was about to walk out, which could be viewed as condescending but also perhaps just an attempt to defuse what was a very difficult situation to handle, I found it difficult therefore to identify any specific microaggressions.

Nick

Shapiro in the cartoon above lists what he feels could have been microaggressions at play in this instance. In my view these mostly have to do with the environment within which a sport panel has to discuss a sport event; which, as pointed out in the discussion on the Gareth Cliff Show, is prone to be disagreeable (who was the man of the match, did the referee handle the match well, is player X the best in his position versus player Y, is the coach the best man for the job etc.) and based on the differing personalities of the panelist and their intimate knowledge of, and passion for the sport.

When aimed at people of colour microaggressions are also often called covert racism, however both the CEO of Supersport and Multichoice (both persons of colour) said after  the discussions that took place on Monday between Ashwin Willemse, Nick Mallet and Naas Botha; that they do not believe racism to have played a part in Ashwin Willemse walking off set on Saturday night. Therefore in their view racism played no part in the incident, which is directly the opposite of Eusebius McKaiser’s viewpoint.

I did not listen to the Eusebius McKaiser Talk Show on 23 May 2018, but according to a Facebook post he had a go, in a lengthy monologue, at the CEO’s of Supersport and Multichoice and what he called “1652” Twitter (as opposed to I would guess “Black Twitter”)  that reveled in the fact that two Black CEO’s found no racism in the Ashwin Willemse walk off from the SuperSport set.  According to the Facebook post Eusebius McKaiser basically dished the two Black CEO’s for not being friends of Black people and for being under the influence of White businessmen – I presume he is referring to Koos Bekker in this instance. If the above representation is an accurate reflection then I want to say if this is not patronizing, then I don’t know what is.

Subsequently to writing the above paragraph I came across the following article that sets out Eusebius McKaiser’s views on what the two Black CEO’s said:

Eusebius: ‘I think the CEOs of MultiChoice and Supersport were pathetic’

So the fact that two black men can categorically say that there is no racial undertones is not the end of the matter. Sometimes black people get it wrong.

— Eusebius McKaiser, Show Host.

Sometimes as a black CEO, when we have incredible proximity to white power, and to CEOs and owners of companies, we don’t necessarily own our truth.

— Eusebius McKaiser, Show Host.

The article and above two quotes from it confirms what has been recorded in the Facebook post, and makes me stand by my view that Eusebius McKaiser himself is guilty of being extremely patronizing and condescending (having or showing an attitude of patronizing superiority) towards the CEO’s of Supersport and Multichoice. He is basically saying “Sies man! Julle twee CEO’s weet nie wat dit is om n goeie Swartman te wees nie”.

For Eusebius McKaiser the fact that Ashwin Willemse received so much support from people of colour is clear and substantial proof that he was on the receiving of microaggressions and that he therefore should be saluted as a hero.

The reasons why tens of thousands of black South Africans, in particular, are, as The Star rightly says this morning, saluting Willemse as a hero, is not because we are race bating white people. You think we have got nothing better to do with our time than to race bate white people, absolutely not.

— Eusebius McKaiser, Show Host.

What the above comment fails to highlight is that the support received might just as well have been the end result of people of all backgrounds (black and white) falling back into our own racial laagers when confronted with an incident involving perceived racism, without waiting for more facts to come to the fore in terms of what actually happened. A majority point of view is also not necessarily the morally correct point of view, just like if most South African’s is to be polled, they would perhaps agree with the reinstatement of the death penalty to curb rampant crime in South Africa, whilst a valid point of view, but as such would be not in line with the values contained in our Constitution.

I will later look in more detail at the audience figures of 702 that stands at a mere 471 000 compared to South Africa’s biggest radio station Ukhozi FM with 7 274 000 listeners, and its therefore dangerous for Eusebius McKaiser to take what is said on his talk show to be representative of the feelings of the rest of South Africa.

Eusebius McKaiser also made a big issue that he did not have to know what happened before and after the show on SuperSport to have an opinion on the matter.

The idea that I need to know what happened before the point at which this particular video surfaces before I can have an opinion is BS.

— Eusebius McKaiser, Show Host.

So is he is saying that the context does not matter as he, just by being a person of colour can deduce what went on in the studio (some lekker supernatural powers that), without knowing the full facts? This is also strange coming from Eusebius as just a week before he agreed 100% with a Constitutional Court judgement which said that the context (what happened before, during and after the incident) was all important in deciding that when a White man stormed into a meeting and said “Se vir daai Swartman hy moet sy voertuig verwyder”, that it was racist and that his employer was therefore within their rights in dismissing him from their employment. I wonder what happened from last week to this week to change his attitude so radically?

ON ASHWIN WILLEMSE 

The points I highlight above in relation to Eusebius McKaiser, is not to say that I deny that Ashwin Willemse must have had a reason to be upset and that he therefore acted untoward. To the contrary I have empathy with how he felt as its out of character of him to become upset in this manner. As pointed out in the following article we ” “…cannot doubt Ashwin’s integrity on this … he clearly felt something (through his actions on live television on Saturday) very profoundly.”

Ashwin courageous, sincere: conflict expert

Its also clear that the incident and what happened resonated with many South Africans, and even though I believe that in this instance it had nothing to do with covert racism, what happened nevertheless sends a strong signal to especially White South Africans that we sometimes unknowingly, diminish the identities of people of colour and that we must guard against this.

What I do have an issue with is Eusebius McKaiser’s singular narrative to try and explain what happened without taking the wider issues into consideration, which as I alluded to above can be as many as 13 different aspects, but perhaps even more that I could not think of whilst writing this article, all that must be taken into consideration.

In the article above the author also highlights that this “……hit Naas and Nick like a bolt from the blue. They, too, will have feelings that need to be respected, given the public nature of the event … they may have played their rugby under apartheid, but they are giants of the game who deserve respect.”.

This aspect brings me to another angle to the matter that I have not seen highlighted anywhere else and that is how Ashwin Willemse, granted when being upset, infringed on the dignity, respect and standing of Nick Mallet and Naas Botha by attacking their reputation as rugby players who played rugby only in the Apartheid era. As for Naas Botha he is one of the few SA rugby players inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame as he was in his own right a player of exceptional talent and recognised internationally as one of the games best flyhalves. He also did not just play rugby in the Apartheid era but also after 1990 when he captained the Springboks in tests against the All Blacks, Wallabies and France.

As for Nick Mallet he played in only two tests in the 1980’s due to South Africa’s sporting isolation, but his real claim to fame is when he capably and with distinction, coached the Springboks in the post Apartheid era, and from 1998 to 2000 equaling the All Blacks long standing world record of 17 undefeated international tests. His reputation is therefore not mainly as a Springbok player, but that of a post Apartheid coach who led the Springboks in this capacity to many victories.

RADIO 702 AUDIENCE FIGURES

Many point to Eusebius McKaiser as a factor in the stagnation, if not decline, of 702 as a once very popular talk show radio station. In a recent Facebook post not one person contributing felt that he has an open mind and that he does not push only his own narrative at the expense of those that call in to contribute to an open and fair debate (and this was not on a Facebook page of some right wing group, but a group that is dedicated to liberal ideals).

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This is borne out by the latest available audience figures released as recent as March 2018 by the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa in its Radio Audience Measurement (What the latest RAM tells us about radio ). Whilst 702 has shown a moderate 10% increase in their audience figures from October 2016 to December 2017, when one looks at the period of April 2017 to December 2017, their audience figures have stayed stagnant at 471 000. Its also telling that a fairly unknown radio station like trufm showed at remarkable 45% growth over the same period and the more well known Gagasi FM a growth of 26% to reach an audience of 1 680 000 people.

Radio 702 audience figure of 471 000 also fades away when compared to the giants of SA radio like Ukhozi FM with 7 274 400 listeners, followed by Umhlobo Wenene FM with an audience figure of 5 506 000. Even the Afrikaans radio station RSG has an audience figure nearly three times that of 702 namely 1 273 000 and this station in the eight place of the top 10 radio stations in South Africa (702 does not feature in the top 10).

EUSEBIUS MCKAISER AND THE KALLIE KRIEL DEBATE

Another example of how Eusebius McKaiser pushes a one-sided narrative, is his debate with Kallie Kriel on 14 May 2018. Following his interview with Kriel and other panelist Adam Habib and Elmien du Plessis, I made a conscious effort to listen to the whole podcast to find out what happened and the exact sequence of events. Herewith some of my immediate observations that I dotted down as I was listening and going through the podcast (I made many more observations however I have copied below only those that directly relate to Eusebius):

  • Busy listening to it – The way Eusebius Hmm and Ah every time he agrees with a caller is killing me. Bias?
  • Busy listening to it – Eusebius says he is struggling to understand the Afriforum methodology in using the data and assumptions made, when Kallie has clearly explained it, namely the number of farm murders that they are aware of divided by the farm population (and even acknowledging that this latter part is a problem because of lack of accurate government data) to give a murder rate per the farming population group.
  • Busy listening to it – Oh hell here comes Johan Pienaar on the line. This debate can only go South from here onward. Pienaar encouraged all his followers on social media to take on AfriForum before this show was even broadcasted as a way to neutralize their recent initiatives.
  • Busy listening to it – Johan Pienaar “Afriforum employs White people mainly. Why are other minorities not employed by them” he asks? Goes on to state that non-white members of Afriforum are only token members – what a racist statement! So, members of other minority groups don’t have the capacity to decide for themselves which organizations they want to belong to and which will serve their purpose best according to Johan! They are only stooges in Pienaar’s estimation.
  • Busy listening to it – Pienaar says it’s a case of smoke and mirrors and Eusebius utters his now familiar Hmm to indicate that he agrees. Independence and objectivity as the host of a public talk show?
  • Busy listening to it – Pienaar says that people are acting racist when commenting on social media and responding to Adam Habib and Elmien du Plessis but that Afriforum is doing nothing about it. Common Johan! I have seen the same happening from people from all walks of life on social media and from supporters of the ANC, EFF and DA (and others). How do you expect these organizations, including Afriforum, to police or to be held accountable for what their supporters say on social media platforms? Eusebius does not challenge him on this.
  • Busy listening to it – Eusebius asking Johan why is so many people in the white community allowing Afriforum to set the agenda? Stupid question! Obviously, many white people are concerned about what is going on in South Africa and feel, rightly or wrongly, that Afriforum is best placed to protect their rights as citizens of SA!
  • Busy listening to it – Eusebius admitting that many academics are not willing to come on his show! Perhaps he should reflect on his own biases and style as a talk show host to find the answer.
  • Busy listening to it – Eusebius giving acres of airtime to Johan Pienaar who has his own personal agenda against Afriforum. Eusebius allows him to make follow up comments and input and then start engaging him in a debate between the two of them ignoring his guests who he has invited to participate in the show!
  • Busy listening to it – Pienaar says the Afrikaans media is turning to Afriforum because they, the media, are under financial pressure and they know that Afriforum has money to throw around (yeah right in today’s economic client), hence it makes sense to give media exposure to Afriforum as it pays the bills. Eusebius remarks WOW (bias?) rather than questioning Pienaar’s wild assertion. Is the actual truth not that the Afrikaans media realize that Afriforum speaks to the heart of things that concerns many Afrikaners currently and that it therefore make sense to cover what they, Afriforum, do and say?
  • Busy listening to it – Eusebius giving Pienaar even more airtime (when is he going to go back to his guests?). Pienaar saying that the directors of Radio Pretoria include some of Afriforum’s leaders and that they, Radio Pretoria, are in direct opposition to Radio Jacaranda. Question is so what even if Afriforum previously challenged what a presenter on Jacaranda once said? Eusebius again goes WOW!. Bias?
  • Busy listening to it – Eusebius saying – “thank you Johan much appreciated” after he has given him more than 7 minutes of airtime on a 30-minute talk show. At least apologizing to Kallie that a lot was said (but why did you then give Johan Pienaar so much airtime in the first place Eusebius?).
  • Busy listening to it – Here it comes! Eusebius asking, with only 3 minutes left, if Afriforum has evolved its views and agree that Apartheid was a crime against humanity. Not a lot of time to have a nuanced debate I would think.
  • Busy listening to it – To be fair Eusebius surprisingly just uttered an Hmm when Kallie mentioned the extreme torture that often accompanies farm murders.
  • Busy listening to it – Eusebius asking Elmien to wrap up. She warns about the one-story narrative and asks how can we speak about this complexity? Valid point from my point of view. Eusebius says, “absolutely and beautifully put”. That’s OK and cool but I have never heard him utter those same words to anybody who has made a logic counter argument to his own views.
  • Busy listening to it – Eusebius asking Adam Habib for his closing comments (strange how he has not taken Habib on at all in this interview about his rather insensitive tweet comparing Afriforum to Hitler and Idi Amin without any justification).
  • Busy listening to it – Habib blaming Afriforum for academics not being willing to come out and talk on Eusebius’s show. WOW my estimation of this man is going down the tube at a rate of knots. Blanket statement with no evidence to back it up. If he is one of our leading academics, then I don’t know!
  • Busy listening to it – Kallie thanked by Eusebius but not given an opportunity to provide closing comments. Rather strange I would think.
  • Finished listening to it – so what can I say in summary then? Apart for the one idiotic statement and the fact that he is not the best of public speakers, Kallie said a lot that made sense. Even so the harm has been done. Habib just irritated me and like somebody else said he clearly does not know what fascism is and is throwing it around like a frisbee hoping somebody might catch it. Also, worried if he is the standard of academic that we must look up to. As for Elmien she was for me the voice of reason in this debate, but was given way too little airtime by Eusebius who preferred to give biased Johan Pienaar an overdose of time to contribute (he and Afriforum has got an ongoing battle of ideas which I’m convinced Eusebius must be aware of, hence perhaps taking his call over many others that must have been waiting patiently in line to contribute to the discussion). As for Eusebius I will rather spare myself the pain of listening to many of his shows unless it’s a topic that interest me. Why he was playing dumb when Kallie explained their methodology and acting like he didn’t get an answer, perfectly sums up his performance for me.”

I deliberately left out above my views of what Kallie Kriel said about Apartheid as a crime against humanity during the interview to reflect on it last and before I’m accused of being a racist and Apartheid denialist. This is what I noted down at the time:

  • Busy listening to it – Kallie Kriel “I disagree that it was a crime against humanity”. Seriously Kallie? I know and appreciate that the decision by the UN in 1973 to declare Apartheid a crime against humanity was filled with irony in that almost all the countries who voted in favour of the deceleration, and especially the two who proposed the motion namely the USSR and Guinea, were themselves one party communist dictatorships and that the citizens of such countries had no freedoms or rights, but you should know that two wrongs does not make a right.
  • Yes Kallie, I agree that perhaps communism should also have been declared a crime against humanity given its oppressive nature and the number of people killed in its name (yes I know millions more than that died under apartheid but one can’t just measure oppression in terms of numbers of people killed, much more important is the daily discrimination and humiliation that Black people suffered daily under Apartheid, you should know this Kallie from our own history and how our forefathers were humiliated when the British imperialist considered all Afrikaners to be uncivilized), but to argue accordingly in this day and age is not going to take South Africa forward.

For two excellent and balanced contributions on the matter of Apartheid as a crime against humanity see the following articles:

IN SUMMARY

Too conclude, I agree that talk show hosts like Eusebius McKaiser and Gareth Cliff can and must have an opinion of their own, but in the role they play in facilitating and guiding the public discourse, they must be careful not to allow their own views to become the dominant narrative or the only consideration, whether in what they say or in their mannerisms or how they treat callers on their shows. Eusebius McKaiser, in my mind, oversteps the mark on this unfortunately more often than not as I have hopefully demonstrated above by what unfolded in the Ashwin Willemse debate and that of Apartheid as a crime against humanity with Kallie Kriel and others.

The Spur Incident versus that of the Pregnant Women (and yes also that of Ashwin Willemse)

On the morning of 8 May 2018 I shared the meme below on a Facebook Group highlighting how the media reacted to the Spur incident in 2017, compared to the recent assault on a pregnant woman. Granted, the meme is an over simplification of both incidents but nevertheless brings home an important issue in the current South African context and that is the double standard evident in how our media are reporting on incidents like these.

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For those that don’t know what happened in the Pregnant Women incident, see the video below:

Many disagreed with the meme and I therefore decided to do a little experiment to demonstrate how the SA media reports on incidents like these. I did a Google search for the “Spur racial incident or attack” and for “pregnant women assault Featherbrooke village” (I included the Featherbrooke village part so that I don’t get search results for pregnant women assaults in general) and I then noted the number of results found in Google.

Disclaimer – I fully realize that such an approach is not perfect as it depends on the exact search terms used, the location parameters set and the date ranges etc. The idea however was not to undertake scientific research but to get a general idea of what was reported and the frequency thereof. I tried to be as consistent as possible when doing the searches so as to use the same parameters for both incidents, however when I subsequently repeated the searches, I sometimes got differing results, but even when looking at these differences the disproportionate reporting between the two incidents was still clearly evident.

I first did a search for the “Spur racial incident or attack” and Google returned 306 000 results. I then did a search for “pregnant women assault Featherbrooke village” and only 9 030 results popped up.

Some people rightly pointed out on Facebook that the incident with the pregnant women only happened recently so it’s unfair to compare its total news coverage with that of the Spur incident that happened in 2017. So, to even the playing field I tried the following – The Spur incident happened on the 19 March 2017 and hit the news on 21 March 2017. So, I did two Google searches, one for the period 21/22 March 2017 and found 103 results on the Spur incident for the said two days and for the period of 21 – 28 March 2017 I found 180 results for the seven-day period.

The pregnant women assault incident happened on 25 April 2018 but only hit the news on 1 May 2018. So, I again did two Google searches one for the period 1/2 May 2018, and found only 4 results on the pregnant women assault incident for the said two days and for the period of 1 to 8 May 2018 I found only 50 results for the seven-day period. The Spur incident within 2 days garnered 25 times more news coverage than the pregnant women incident and nearly 4 times as much coverage over a period of one week.

I did a few further searches thereafter for both incidents for a period longer than just one week and up to one month after each incident, and it was clear that whereas the Spur incident exploded in terms of its media coverage (picking up to over 3 000 search results), the reporting on the pregnant women incident barely registered any increased coverage staying around +/- 100 search results.

Glaring also was the absence of reporting (at least until the morning 9 May 2018) of the pregnant women incident in some of our media and comparing how many times other media houses reported on both incidents. I found 8 160 results when I checked how many times the Daily Maverick either reported on the Spur incident or was quoted for reporting on it but no results for the Daily Maverick for the pregnant women incident by the 9th. Similarly, I found 15 500 results for News24 for the Spur incident but only 459 such results for the pregnant women assault. I found 32 000 results for the Spur incident referencing City Press but none such for the pregnant women incident. For the Huffington Post I found a staggering 60 900 results for the Spur incident when I checked how many times the Huffington Post either reported on the Spur incident or was quoted for reporting on it, but only 1 for the pregnant women assault to date and that’s when cartoonist Jerm commented on the matter on his Facebook page somehow referencing the Huffington Post.

When one compares the headlines used when reporting the two incidents some glaring differences also comes to the fore. For the Spur incident – “Spur Racial Attack (EWN)”, Spur bowed to racist pressure (Huffington Post)”, “Spur Group probing racism claim (IOL)”, “Spur blamed for condoning racism (The South African)”, “How a right wing boycott has lost Spur Millions (Daily Maverick)”, “What the Spur boycott has taught black women (Women24)”, “Spur apologizes to SA for racial spat”, “Spur people – with a taste for white male violence (The Daily Vox)” etc. Compare that to the language used when reporting on the pregnant women incident – “CEO suspended after assaulting pregnant women (Times Live)”, “Man opens case of crimen injuria against assaulted pregnant women (Citizen)” with most other media articles following more or less the same headlines. It’s easy to spot the differences in the way the two incidents were reported in the media.

Lastly, I looked at how the two incidents were reported upon from a race perspective in the leading paragraphs of such news articles. From the Mail and Guardian (22 March 2017) reporting on the Spur incident – “Footage of a white man threatening a black woman at Spur’s branch in the Glen shopping mall has gone viral this week and has been greeted with outrage across the country.” versus the first paragraph from the Times Live (8 May 2018) “A man caught on CCTV footage assaulting a pregnant woman at Featherbrooke Village Mall in Ruimsig west of Johannesburg has been suspended as chief executive officer of Novare Consultants with immediate effect.” Note how for the one incident the race of both the alleged perpetrator and victim is clearly highlighted, whereas for the second incident not a word about the race of either the alleged perpetrator or victim. I found this to be the overall general trend in how these two incidents were reported in the media.

Renaldo Gouws in a video on his YouTube channel (copied below) asked the same questions and why people are hardly aware of the pregnant women incident and why there was no major outrage –

The above results although not scientific, raises serious questions as to the motives of the media when reporting on incidents involving different race groups. Why the double standards and lack of equal treatment?

The same double standards were pointed out in a report compiled by the Solidarity Research Institute in 2017 (see the following links for more information):

In conclusion I wonder what the results would be, if somebody better equipped than me, do a similar comparison of the coverage of the two incidents on social media and the language used in these interactions?

Postscript – As I was writing this post the Ashwim Willemse incident where he walked out of the Supersport studio made main headlines news. For those that’s not familiar with what happened see the following video wherein Renaldo Gouws gives his own views on the incident  –

Just for interest sake I did a Google search on “Ashwin Willemse Supersport Mallet” limited to 19/20 May 2018 and was startled to find 3 090 results. So an incident where a women is assaulted only resulted in 4 Google search results in two days, compared to 3 090 results for an incident in which nobody was assaulted?