‘Ben 10’ com­plaint against City Press fails

CityPress - - News - SETUMO STONE setumo.stone@city­press.co.za

At­tor­ney Luvo Makasi’s at­tempts to have City Press apol­o­gise for and re­tract a story al­leg­ing an im­proper re­la­tion­ship be­tween him and Wa­ter Af­fairs Min­is­ter Nomvula Mokonyane has failed.

On Tues­day, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, the chair­per­son of the Press Coun­cil of SA’s ap­peals panel, up­held an ear­lier rul­ing in March by Press Om­buds­man Jo­han Retief, say­ing that the ap­pli­ca­tion brought by Makasi and his law firm Bo­qwana Burns had “no rea­son­able prospects of suc­cess”.

A City Press ar­ti­cle pub­lished on Fe­bru­ary 19 2017, un­der the head­line “Nomvula’s ‘Ben 10’ calls the shots”, al­leged that the im­proper re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two had given Makasi, em­ployed by Bo­qwana Burns, enough au­thor­ity to run the depart­ment of wa­ter af­fairs, or at least be very in­flu­en­tial in the tak­ing of de­ci­sions, such as the award­ing of ten­ders, even though he was not a gov­ern­ment em­ployee.

In his rul­ing in March, Retief wrote that he had not “had a com­plaint as se­ri­ous as this one since I started my work in this of­fice more than seven years ago”.

Retief re­ferred to City Press’ re­sponse that a source told the pa­per he had been in a meet­ing where Thele Moema, Mokonyane’s spe­cial ad­viser, a se­nior pres­i­den­tial VIP pro­tec­tion agent and se­nior of­fi­cer in the SA Po­lice Ser­vice dis­cussed “what to do with [re­porter Sipho] Ma­sondo”.

“Ac­cord­ing to this source, some pushed for ‘Ma­sondo’s dis­ap­pear­ance’ ... A threat of mur­der­ing (which is what ‘dis­ap­pear­ance’ clearly means) a jour­nal­ist is also un­prece­dented in the his­tory of this of­fice, at least to my knowl­edge.”

Judge Ngoepe ruled that although Makasi com­plained that City Press had failed to ob­tain his com­ment, was in­ac­cu­rate, un­fair or de­lib­er­ately dis­hon­est in its re­port­ing, and al­lowed com­mer­cial, po­lit­i­cal, per­sonal or other non-pro­fes­sional con­sid­er­a­tions to in­flu­ence or slant re­port­ing, “In al­most all in­stances the ar­ti­cle refers not just to one source, but to sev­eral sources some of whom, it should be added, are said to be se­nior peo­ple in the depart­ment.”

“The im­pres­sion one gets is that the in­for­ma­tion came from peo­ple within ei­ther the min­istry or the depart­ment or both,” he said.

Ngoepe said it was “im­pos­si­ble” to in­fer that City Press al­lowed non-pro­fes­sional con­sid­er­a­tions to in­flu­ence or slant re­port­ing. “Add to that the fact that there have in the past been sim­i­lar re­ports about some of the depart­ment’s projects, espe­cially in Lim­popo.”

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