ANC Western Cape Statement on the Ashwin Willemse incident at SuperSport studios
ANC Western Cape is disturbed by the incident at SuperSport studios yesterday which resulted in former Springbok Wing and legend Ashwin WIllemse walking out of the studio over and against a sense of humiliation he felt from his other two colleagues, Nick Mallett and Naas Botha (see Sport24 report).
As a Western Cape born and raised player who remain very involved in various social projects in the province, we know Ashwin as a strong men who against all odds, pulled himself by the bootstraps out of poverty and out of a written fate for many of the young people who come from his neighborhoods.
As the ANC, working in our communities, we have observed Ashwin using his stature and hard earned lofty position to lower the ladder of opportunity for many previously disadvantaged young people so that these young people can have a better chance at making it in life than he did. Ashwin is therefore not a men who is easily moved by petty squabbles that may occasionally happen among colleagues or sportsman.
As the ANC, we believe that Ashwins public walkout is a result of what many black people experience in offices and boardrooms across the country, where being black is a constant source of being undermined, doubted, spoken down upon and largely made to feel outside various social cliques and cores within the same working environment.
This incident brings to the surface so much hurt and humiliation suffered by the black rugby community, especially after unification and we expected so much more.
The more recent humiliation includes the way in which Coach Peter de Villiers was caricatured, ridiculed and dismissed into the wilderness despite the results on the field. Similarly we have seen the dismissal of coach Allister Coetzee when everyone knew he was given a 'hospital pass' in the form of restrictive selection options - on overseas players - and a rushed itinerary of International matches. In contrast, the 'favored son', 'Rassie' Erasmus, without proven credentials, is eased into the post, with all restrictions dropped, and will probably be forgiven for easing the number of black players.
South African Rugby has the most number of hookers who spend years gathering splinters, and as soon as the number one is retired or retraded overseas, the number two hooker is never selected. The same can be said of scrum half like Rudy Paige. How much humiliation must still be endured?
Ashwin Willemse has struck a blow against this ongoing denigration of our rugby history - where greats like Salie Fredericks and Zola Yeye are never mentioned in the statistics and legend of SA rugby- and the denigration of our players who are given a far shorter time to find form than journeymen like Scrumhalf Pienaar. Now it appears that our commentators are there to add colour, but not insight.
If SA Rugby does not transform, not just in black numbers, but in the management and culture of the game, with a provision of quality facilities and coaching in every community, then we should consider putting Rugby in quarantine until they are ready to play international rugby again.
Let SA Rugby learn from cricket.
Statement issued by Faiez Jacobs, ANC Western Cape Provincial Secretary, 20 May 2018