Vusi Mona: 'I was reckless'

A former newspaper editor conceded before the Hefer commission on Thursday that he was reckless when he published spy claims against National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka.

Vusi Mona, former editor of the City Press, admitted to this under gruelling cross-examination by the commission’s evidence leader, advocate Kessie Naidu.

He said he understood “reckless” to entail lacking attention to detail.

Mona denied that stories published in September on the allegations were deliberate attempts to mislead City Press readers.

Naidu pointed out factual mistakes in the particular City Press reports. In the first, the sub-heading claimed that Ngcuka has been named in an apartheid-era intelligence report as government agent RS452. The report in fact concluded that Ngcuka was possibly RS452.

Mona conceded that the sub-heading was misleading, but said this was not done intentionally.

In a follow-up story two weeks later, the paper stated that the apartheid police had detained Ngcuka on suspicion of high treason.
Ngcuka was in fact convicted for refusing to testify against a comrade who was convicted of high treason.

Mona’s afternoon testimony contradicted what he told former judge Joos Hefer earlier on Thursday. He then said he believed he was

perfectly entitled to run the story if taking into account supporting documents shown to him and discussions with other journalists.

It was for the courts to decide whether the articles were reckless or defamatory, Mona testified.

He was not aware of any papers having been served yet by Ngcuka’s lawyers on the newspaper, he added.

City Press was the first to break the story on the spying allegations against Ngcuka. This was after its rival, the Sunday Times, refused to publish it.

Former Sunday Times writer Ranjeni Munusamy handed the story to the City Press when her editor at the time, Mathatha Tshedu, dismissed it.—Sapa

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