Chief tar­geted by journos for ex­tor­tion

CityPress - - News - ABRAM MASHEGO abram.mashego@city­

An SABC TV host and a jour­nal­ist from tabloid news­pa­per Sun­day World are fac­ing charges of ex­tor­tion af­ter al­legedly try­ing to black­mail a chief in Lim­popo, de­mand­ing money from him in ex­change for not pub­lish­ing a story about an af­fair he al­legedly had.

Venda chief Livhuwani Mat­sila’s love af­fair with ac­tress Florence Masebe be­came pub­lic late last year af­ter the cou­ple’s 18-month-old son drowned trag­i­cally in a swim­ming pool. At the time, Sun­day World re­ported that the lit­tle boy was the love child of Mat­sila and Masebe, who had kept their af­fair a se­cret.

Mat­sila told City Press this week that shortly af­ter his son’s fu­neral, he was ap­proached by the TV host, who told him the Sun­day World reporter was work­ing on a fol­lowup story and was about to ex­pose an­other af­fair he had with an­other woman, which had also pro­duced a child.

City Press knows the iden­ti­ties of the reporter and the SABC TV host, but is with­hold­ing their names be­cause the two have yet to be ar­rested or for­mally charged.

“He [the TV host] told me the jour­nal­ist was pre­pared to make the story die if I paid the money,” Mat­sila told City Press this week.

He said the TV host ad­vised him to make a cash of­fer to the jour­nal­ist to make the story go away. He of­fered R4 000, which the host dis­missed as too lit­tle.

“I then of­fered to dou­ble it to R8 000, but the TV host sent me an SMS, pur­port­edly from the reporter,” the chief said. The SMS, al­legedly sent from the reporter’s phone to the TV host and then for­warded to the chief, reads: “Mchana, tell that Morena [chief] to be se­ri­ous. Maybe this chick [a fe­male jour­nal­ist who was also re­port­ing on the story] is, but I’m not des­per­ate phela [be­cause] I dropped the story about the min­is­ter Ka [on] Tues­day and he called me and gave us R100k Ko [at] Park­town ho­tel.”

He con­tin­ued: “Bjale wena o be­laka ka R8k tlo­gela go raloka Sione [now you are talk­ing about R8 000, stop play­ing]. And wena [you], why do you al­ways fight for Mavenda naa [peo­ple from Venda]? The man stands to lose a lot of cred­i­bil­ity if this story goes, Mchana.

“His web­site shows he does a lot of busi­ness with govern­ment and Lotto. He will be bring­ing them into dis­re­pute, Mchana, ka story se [over this story].”

Af­ter the SMS was sent, Mat­sila al­leges he called the reporter di­rectly and told him he could only af­ford R60 000. The reporter said he pre­ferred to re­ceive the money via the TV host.

Mat­sila said he then spoke to friends, who ad­vised him to open an ex­tor­tion case with po­lice – which he did. In­ter­cepted com­mu­ni­ca­tions, which City Press has ob­tained, con­tin­ued via SMS and phone calls that were recorded be­tween Mat­sila, the reporter and the TV host.

Mat­sila said: “On the day of the de­liv­ery, the TV host said he would not be avail­able but would send a driver to col­lect the money. When the driver ar­rived, he was ar­rested by the un­der­cover po­lice. The driver made a sworn state­ment that he was sent to col­lect the money.”

City Press un­der­stands the reporter was ques­tioned by Hawks of­fi­cers, but not ar­rested.

“The prob­lem is, there have been se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers and govern­ment of­fi­cials who have been com­ing to me ask­ing me to drop the charges. I told them I would not,” said Mat­sila.

Hawks spokesper­son Bri­gadier Hang­wani Mu­laudzi con­firmed they were in­ves­ti­gat­ing a case of ex­tor­tion and state­ments had been ob­tained from those im­pli­cated.

“We have com­pleted com­pil­ing ev­i­dence in the form of SMSes and call record­ings against those in­volved. The docket will be sent to the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity for a de­ci­sion on Mon­day,” he said.

Ap­proached for com­ment on Fri­day, the TV host asked that ques­tions be sent via SMS.

Late yes­ter­day, his lawyer, who would only iden­tify her­self as Miss Ma­hapa, said: “All the al­le­ga­tions are de­nied, and there was never any crim­i­nal mat­ter against my client. There is no crim­i­nal mat­ter pend­ing against him.”

Yes­ter­day, the Sun­day World reporter de­clined to com­ment, as the mat­ter was “sub ju­dice”.

Sun­day World editor Ab­dul Mi­lazi said the reporter told him last month a charge had been laid against him.

“He said he did not have de­tails at the time be­cause the po­lice had not con­tacted him as yet about the mat­ter.

“The jour­nal­ist has been on leave since De­cem­ber and will be re­turn­ing to work next week,” said Mi­lazi.

“We will ex­pect him to brief us about the de­tails of the charge or charges against him on his re­turn and we will be guided by our HR poli­cies as to what ac­tion to take.”

SA Na­tional Edi­tors’ Fo­rum chair­per­son and Sowetan editor Mpumelelo Mkha­bela said the press code ad­vised that “jour­nal­ists are not al­lowed to en­gage in prac­tices that may make their au­di­ences doubt their jour­nal­is­tic in­de­pen­dence”.

“Ex­tor­tion and/or so­lic­i­ta­tion of bribery of any form is pro­hib­ited in jour­nal­ism,” he said. “I hope the al­le­ga­tions are not true for the sake of eth­i­cal and cred­i­ble jour­nal­ism.”

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