While the spotlight was on Springbok Ashwin Willemse’s infamous walk-out of a TV studio at the weekend, another incident almost slipped under the radar.
Western Province Rugby Union vice-president Gerald Njengele has been suspended for four years, for his alleged racial outburst at the Cape Town leg of the Sevens World Series last year.
WPRU President Thelo Wakefield confirmed the news to Rugby365.com that Njengele was slapped with the ban for breaking the union’s code of ethics.
Wakefield declined to elaborate, saying they regard the matter as ‘sub judice’, because Njengele is appealing the decision.
Reports of the incident first surfaced after the Cape Town Sevens on the weekend of December 9 and 10 last year.
According to media reports at the time, Njengele launched a scathing verbal and racial attack on Jessie Claassen, who is the national manager of the Vuka Rugby Programme – a South African Rugby Union-affiliated initiative that aims to cater for development in the poorer areas of the country.
Claassen said that the attack stemmed from his decision not to shake Njengele’s hand due to a previous altercation between the pair last August.
When this happened, Njengele allegedly responded: “F**k you white people, f**k the coloureds. I’m a clever darkie. I don’t need your f*****g money.”
Njengele denied he made the comments, but was still found guilty and banned.
Njengele’s sanction comes just days after Ashwin Willemse, dramatically removed his microphone and walked off, live on air, while having been afforded an opportunity to air his opinion after the Super Rugby encounter between the Lions and Brumbies in Johannesburg at the weekend.
The dramatic scenes, caught on camera, show Willemse storm out of their studio, despite being live on air.
Willemse – who won 19 caps for the Springboks – spoke to camera regarding how he was perceived as a “quota player” during his playing days and that he refused to be ‘patronised’ – before dramatically walking off the set.
His grievance appeared to be directed at fellow pundits Nick Mallett and Naas Botha – who he referred to as “apartheid era” players. The incident has elicited strong reactions, with heavy racial undertones.
A media release issued by SuperSport on Tuesday said the trio were locked in “robust discussions” for most of the day, with SuperSport CEO Gideon Khobane and MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela.
According to Khobane and Mawela, there was “no racism” at play when Willemse walked out of the studio at the weekend.
“What is encouraging with the discussions, we’ve had, is that Nick [Mallet], Naas [Botha], and also Ashwin [Willemse], were part of the discussions,” Mawela told a media briefing.
“They were all in the same room; they were courteous to each other; they shook hands; they openly [chatted].
“There is no animosity that exists between the three of them from what we could see today,” Mawela added.
The SuperSport CEO, Khobane, said they did not intend sweeping anything under the carpet and would instead deal with the issue fairly.
“This has become a national issue. We at SuperSport and MultiChoice treat this issue with all the seriousness it deserves,” he said. “We’ve had very robust discussions today from 7 o’clock this morning with all the role players involved. We recognise that we need further engagements,” he added.
“We are positive that this was not a racially motivated issue because all parties were very courteous during our discussions that started this morning‚” Khobane said.
In a media release, it was revealed that the trio will all three resume duties. It is basically ‘business as usual’.
“There was a significant move in the parties finding common ground,” the statement said. “This is merely the first stage of the process to address the issues raised by the weekend’s events.”
This could make for some fantastic and incredibly awkward television.
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