Former City Press editor Vusi Mona switched from accuser to accused on Friday before the Hefer commission.
Advocate Marumo Moerane, counsel for National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka, told Mona he was “a disgrace to the journalistic profession”.
This followed an earlier statement on Friday by the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), which distanced itself from Mona following his testimony before the commission.
Sanef accused Mona of breaching an important journalistic convention by publicly disclosing what had happened at an off-the-record briefing Ngcuka had held in July with a group of editors.
Mona complained about two months later about the meeting to the public protector, who referred the matter to the Hefer commission.
He accused Ngcuka of abusing his official powers at the meeting through “vitriolic character assassination” of Deputy President Jacob Zuma, among others.
Moerane denied on Friday that his client had made any racist or violating remarks at the meeting, as alleged by Mona. He accused Mona of being part of a smear campaign against Ngcuka by distorting what was said at the meeting.
Moerane questioned why Mona had his “Damascus experience” about the meeting only after he was (wrongly) informed that Ngcuka’s Scorpions unit was investigating him.
Mona has admitted that for a few days he was under this wrong impression.
It followed allegations against him over his involvement with a communications company that had won a Mpumalanga government contract.
Former judge Joos Hefer suggested that Mona could be the one abusing his powers by breaking the confidentiality agreement he had had with Ngcuka about the off-the-record meeting.
Mona further admitted on Friday that he had realised by now there was no substance in spying allegations against Ngcuka.
As editor of the City Press at the time, he was ultimately responsible for the first newspaper reports that were published on the allegations against Ngcuka. This was in September.
Mona conceded on Thursday that his decision to publish the story was reckless.
Hefer announced on Friday that Ngcuka would not start testifying before him on Monday, as was originally planned. Other witnesses first had to be called before Ngcuka would testify in the following week.
Hefer said it might still become necessary to summon journalist Ranjeni Munusamy to the witness box. This was because her name kept cropping up in other testimony.
Munusamy is the main author of the first City Press report in which spying allegations against Ngcuka originally surfaced. She is currently waiting for leave to appeal against a High Court ruling forcing her to testify before Hefer. — Sapa