‘Mis­lead­ing head­line and in­ac­cu­ra­cies in

Mail & Guardian - - Comment & Analysis - Pule Mabe

In the early evening of Thurs­day May 10, South Africans where greeted by a scream­ing tweet on the of­fi­cial Twit­ter han­dle of the Mail & Guardian — “Mabe and Co in dodgy R49-mil­lion ten­der: ANC spokesman and bud­ding tech en­tre­pre­neur told to pay back the money.”

This head­line is not only mis­lead­ing but sought to cast doubt on my char­ac­ter and pub­lic stand­ing.

I agreed to speak to the jour­nal­ist on the record to clar­ify my un­der­stand­ing and role in the said trans­ac­tion.

I must state up­front my ut­most re­spect for Than­dux­olo Jika as a se­nior in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist of good pub­lic stand­ing and rep­u­ta­tion.

Con­sid­er­ing that Mr Jika was pre­sented with facts and given a port­fo­lio [of] ev­i­dence it is clear that the mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the facts in the story is de­lib­er­ately aimed at furthering a par­tic­u­lar nar­ra­tive.

The scream­ing head­line has no re­la­tion to the story it­self. The head­line sug­gests that, as some­one who held pub­lic of­fice, I de­lib­er­ately mis­led Par­lia­ment by not declar­ing my in­ter­est in a pub­lic sec­tor deal, and have now been or­dered to re­pay R49-mil­lion.

The ar­ti­cle con­tains a num­ber of ma­te­rial in­ac­cu­ra­cies. I have, how­ever, cho­sen to ad­dress my­self to two spe­cific in­ac­cu­ra­cies that re­late to me di­rectly, which will also be at the heart of my ven­ti­la­tion to the press om­buds­man, with­out deal­ing with the mer­its or de­mer­its of the story:

O I re­signed from En­viro Mobi in 2014 as per the Com­pa­nies and In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Com­mis­sion records and not in Jan­uary 2018.

O I made a pre­sen­ta­tion to the board of the North West De­vel­op­ment Corporation on Septem­ber 14 2017.

Con­trary to a mis­lead­ing nar­ra­tive that I was dragged to make a pre­sen­ta­tion, Mvest Trust had ad­vised the corporation that I would be pre­sent­ing on their be­half when they were in­vited to come and make a pre­sen­ta­tion. At this point I was no longer an MP.

This kind of re­port­ing is not sur­pris­ing given the out­come of the 2018 Edel­man Trust Barom­e­ter, which showed a de­cline in the trust that peo­ple have in South Africa’s me­dia. The barom­e­ter showed that 61% of par­tic­i­pants be­lieved that me­dia houses are more con­cerned with in­creas­ing their num­bers in­stead of re­port­ing and 59% be­lieved that ac­cu­racy is sac­ri­ficed in the name of be­ing the first to break a story.

The code of ethics and con­duct for South African print and on­line me­dia (ef­fec­tive from Jan­uary 1 2016) com­mits jour­nal­ists to the high­est stan­dards, to main­tain cred­i­bil­ity and keep the trust of the pub­lic.

This means that, in the gath­er­ing and re­port­ing of news, the me­dia shall take care to re­port news truth­fully, ac­cu­rately and fairly.

The M&G and es­pe­cially Mr Jika fails this ba­sic test. The story is lit­tered with in­ac­cu­ra­cies that a se­nior jour­nal­ist like him should have taken care to ver­ify prior to pub­lish­ing. Un­less of course as the 2018 Edel­man Trust Barom­e­ter in­di­cates there is more to this story than mere re­port­ing of al­leged un­to­ward ac­tiv­i­ties.

When jour­nal­ists are briefed even by their most trusted sources they should al­ways make time to ver­ify such facts and not force a line in an at­tempt to un­nec­es­sar­ily sen­sa­tion­alise their re­port­ing.

All cit­i­zens in this coun­try re­gard­less of the colour of their skins and po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion en­joy full rights as en­shrined in the Con­sti­tu­tion. Un­for­tu­nately, lately it has be­come so easy to cast doubt on peo­ple who hold pub­lic of­fice.

When I re­signed from Par­lia­ment I did cite my de­sire to drive for­ward en­ter­prise de­vel­op­ment as a mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor for such a move.

I have never hid­den my par­tic­i­pa­tion in en­tre­pre­neur­ial ac­tiv­i­ties and have al­ways sought to make a difference in that way. As a mat­ter of fact it is be­cause of my pre­vi­ous in­volve­ment with our Par­lia­ment that I would never have sought to im­pose my­self on in­sti­tu­tions of the state.

It is only fair that in the pro­tec­tion of my own rights and in­tegrity that I sub­ject this mat­ter to the press om­buds­man to al­low both my­self and my me­dia alma mater — the M&G — to present facts and sup­port­ing ev­i­dence so as to ad­dress this is­sue once and for all.

This should never de­tract from the fact that jour­nal­ists should con­tinue to do their work coura­geously and with­out fear or favour.

This state­ment is is­sued in my per­sonal ca­pac­ity.

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