THE BLOG
04/06/2018 06:00 SAST | Updated 04/06/2018 07:34 SAST

Why Has The Ashwin Willemse Incident STILL Not Been Resolved?

'It looks like the South African public is once again going to be robbed of the chance to see conflict handled well publicly.'

Ashwin Willemse in action against Uruguay in Perth, Australia during the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
Phil Noble/ PA Images/ Getty Images
Ashwin Willemse in action against Uruguay in Perth, Australia during the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

Another week, another racist tweet, and yet this time something seems to have changed.

By now you are probably aware of the Roseanne Barr incident that took place on Twitter a few days ago, which led to the cancellation by ABC of her recently rebooted show, "Roseanne".

In the early hours of the morning, Barr, supposedly trumped up on Ambien, sent out a horrifically racist tweet directed at Valerie Jarrett (a former Obama adviser), whom she suggested was the offspring of a union between the "brotherhood of Muslims" and "planet of the apes".

While Barr tried to backpedal with an apology later, the show was cancelled overnight and the entertainment president of ABC, Channing Dungey, included in his statement that "Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values".

The slow wheels of justice

Meanwhile, back here in South Africa, rugby supporters and the public, in general, are still trying to make sense of the incident that happened over 10 days ago, when SuperSport rugby analyst and former Springbok player Ashwin Willemse walked off the set.

During a live segment following the Lions-Brumbies match, Willemse directed a rant at fellow pundits Naas Botha and Nick Mallett, before walking out.

'I'm not going to sit here and be patronised by these two individuals [Mallett and Botha] who played their rugby during the apartheid era; a segregated era'

Mixed reports followed the incident, and while there was nothing overtly racist in the footage that we have had access to, there is a strong suggestion that race had a part to play.

When Barr sent out an indefensible tweet, she was shown the door within a day — and yet when something happens here, we tend to explain and defend, and deal with it quietly on the side, behind closed doors.

While this feels like an opportunity for SuperSport to act more decisively and transparently than usual, it looks like the South African public is once again going to be robbed of the chance to see conflict handled well publicly, in a way that demonstrates how helpful difficult and painful conversations can be, when we do them well.

But that doesn't seem to be the case, so once again we'll have to return to life as normal, and file this ugly, mysterious incident away with all the other "Don't touch me on my studio" moments of years gone by.