Football politics could be behind Robert Marawa’s abrupt dismissal by SuperSport earlier this week, City Press has reliably learnt.
A Marawa confidant has alleged that the directive to show him the door was influenced by an external person and “the so-called CEO [chief executive officer] was just carrying out that directive”.
Marawa’s no-nonsense approach and hard stance on football-related issues on his SABC radio platforms and television shows don’t always go down well with football bosses who take offence personally.
“I can tell you that one of the reasons Robert’s contract was not renewed is that the sporting federations are unhappy with the way he portrays them publicly,” a SuperSport insider told City Press yesterday.
However, City Press has established that Marawa would not let his dismissal slide and, according to a close friend, “he is currently consulting with his lawyers as he feels the dismissal was unfair and unwarranted”.
A concerned SuperSport insider told City Press that the popular sports presenter had an hour-long meeting with SuperSport executives on Wednesday, where “he might have said something that didn’t sit well with the executives”.
“Marawa speaks his mind and he tells it as it is. This has portrayed him as a rude and a hard person to work with. But whatever he said in that meeting has really gotten him into trouble, hence he was axed,” said the source.
On Thursday, the country came to a standstill after Marawa tweeted: “I received a text around at 18h50 tonight informing me that I should not bother coming to studio for Thursday Night Live with Marawa Show on @SuperSport TV... I would like to thank those who have supported my journey as a sportscaster & those I’ve worked with at SuperSport.”
As a result, Marawa’s co-host Thato Moeng had to carry the show on her own.
Marawa’s tweet has since left his followers disenchanted – they were angry and disappointed that he was fired an hour before his popular show.
They vented their frustration on social media, saying SuperSport had lost one of the most talented sportscasters locally and internationally.
Some of the fuming followers threatened to cancel their DStv subscriptions with MultiChoice.
SuperSport spokesperson Clinton van der Berg said the reason behind Marawa’s dismissal was contractual issues and had nothing to do with a sexual harassment case.
“The channel is in the process of an exciting refresh of its local presenter line-up, which will be unveiled as part of our new football season campaign. The restructuring includes us not pursuing our contractual relationship with Marawa,” the channel said in a statement.
There were also speculations that the reason Marawa’s contract was not renewed was that he was the voice of female employees who were allegedly sexually harassed by one of the SuperSport executives.
“Sexual harassment is a real problem at that place. The lady wrote her own testimony on Twitter. Marawa challenged the so-called CEO last year to take action and protect his female colleagues at the office, but instead he got angry and defensive because it involved his two henchmen,” said a confidant, adding that Marawa’s axing was an external instruction carried out on Wednesday afternoon.
City Press tried to trace one of the alleged victims, Mmaphuti Mashamaite, who had posted on Twitter, but her phone was on voicemail and she did not respond to City Press text messages.
She tweeted: “What did I just read? I was painted as a loose goose, a wild child ... just to cover for a sexual predator at work. I had three mental breakdowns soon after. I got less bookings. I couldn’t talk. I can’t talk still. But I’m tired. Even if I never work in this industry again...
“I will be okay. All I want is to make sure no girl child goes through this again. ‘Protect your brand,’ they say.
“I’m a feminist through and through. But somehow I couldn’t protect and defend myself from this man [broken-hearted emoji]. I can’t stop crying. But it’ll be okay. All I want is to work and grow in this beautiful field.”
Addressing sexual harassment allegations, Van der Berg insisted that sexual harassment was completely unrelated to and played no role whatsoever in the decision by SuperSport to not pursue a contractual relationship with Marawa.
“We take the matter of sexual harassment very seriously. This is a deeply personal, sensitive matter that has devastating long-term effects on those who are impacted by it,” he said.
He added that the channel had taken robust measures and instituted stringent processes throughout the group to ensure that sexual harassment was dealt with decisively.
“We are grateful for his contribution over the years and wish him great success in his future endeavours,” the channel said.
There were also rumours doing the rounds that Marawa was dropped at the eleventh hour as one of the hosts of the PSL Awards was rumoured to have been replaced by TV darling Bonang Matheba.
The PSL Awards will take place tonight at the International Convention Centre in Durban. The official hosts are SuperSport’s Carol Tshabalala and the SABC’s Thomas Mlambo.
But a Marawa confidant strongly denied that the radio personality was snubbed by the awards.
“He was never part of them in the first place. He’s not contracted to do any awards. This is misleading and mischievous.”