‘Ben 10’ complaint against City Press fails
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.”