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Sekunjalo withdraws charges against Sunday Times

Sapa

Instead of approaching the courts, Sekunjalo Investments is set to pursue a complaint against the Sunday Times with the press ombud.

Independent News and Media South Africa and Sekunjalo chair Iqbal Survé accused rival Times Media Group of 'dirty tricks'. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Sekunjalo Investments has decided to pursue a complaint against the Sunday Times with the press ombud, rather than the courts, it said on Friday.

"Sekunjalo has notified the SAPS [South African Police Service] that it does not persist with its criminal complaint against the Sunday Times, which was lodged with the SAPS on 3 December 2013," Sekunjalo chief executive Khalid Abdulla said in a statement.

"The company has decided to pursue the complaint of the contravention of section 7(2) of the Public Protector Act 23 of 1994 with the press ombud rather than by way of a criminal complaint."

Independent News and Media South Africa (INMSA) and Sekunjalo chair Iqbal Survé accused rival Times Media Group of a "dirty tricks" campaign to rob his group of revenue and readers, and laid criminal charges against one of its editors and a reporter over a story.

The story was about a preliminary public protector finding that the awarding of a fisheries tender by the agriculture, forestry and fisheries department, to Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium, was improper.

The consortium is a subsidiary of Sekunjalo Holdings and acquired a controlling share in INMSA earlier this year.

Sekunjalo demanded apology
Sunday Times legal editor Sue Smuts said the newspaper received the complaint.

"We received the complaint, and we will defend it [the story] because of public interest," she said.

On Friday, the Cape Times, which is part of the INMSA group, ran with the same story. Its editor Alide Dasnois was reportedly dismissed that day.

Abdulla said Sekunjalo demanded an apology from Dasnois and the newpaper's environment writer Melanie Gosling.

Failing this, the company previously said it would issue a summons against them and the newspaper, and lodge a complaint with the press ombud for breaches of the Press Code.

"The company has decided to press ahead with a complaint with the press ombud only," Abdulla said.

"The company trusts that the press ombudsman will deal fairly and swiftly with its complaint."

Considering legal action
He said a "broader complaint" would also be lodged with the ombudsman to investigate the "targeted and sustained attack on its integrity by various newspapers over the past two years".

Survé on Thursday penned a year-end letter to staff, detailing reasons for the removal of Dasnois.

This follows Dasnois's confirmation on Wednesday that she was considering legal action following her dismissal from the newspaper.

In his year-end letter, Survé said Dasnois was reprimanded for not leading with the news of former president Nelson Mandela's death in its Friday edition.

Mandela died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, last Thursday, at the age of 95.

Survé denied that Dasnois was dismissed, and said she had been redeployed to another editorial position. – Sapa

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