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13 May 2016 00:00
Edna Molewa. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)
RIGHT OF REPLY
The page-two story in last week’s Mail &
Guardian , Thuli reads ANC the riot act was a
sensationalised and heavily redacted account of the public protector’s report
titled State and Party, Blurred Lines . The article failed
some basic tests of ethical journalism, namely fairness and accuracy.
In failing to offer me the right of reply to the contents of
the report and the article itself, your correspondent did a great disservice to
In choosing to omit critical facts
and findings contained in the report, the reporter reaches certain conclusions
about the “damage” caused to me as the former minister of social development –
when it is apparent that the reporter has either not read the report in full or
has chosen to use selective extracts.
There are inconsistencies between what the public
protector’s report’s findings actually were and what the article reports.
The public protector had to consider whether the said event
was organised by the State Social Security Agency (Sassa), which falls under
the purview of the department of social development, and whether I, in my
capacity as minister of social development, had “instructed” Sassa officials to
have food parcels organised for distribution at the event and, following on
this, whether this amounted to improper conduct or maladministration.
On the very first issue, the report is clear. On page 6, it
found that the allegation that Sassa improperly organised the event is
“unsubstantiated”, noting that it was organised by the Youth League “in terms
of its own internal resolution and using its own resources”.
On the second, it is equally clear. On page 8 of the report,
the claim that I instructed Sassa officials to have food parcels organised for
distribution at the event is found to be unsubstantiated.
The reporter states in a footnote that “at the time of the
incident, Sassa insisted that the food parcels had been donated to Molewa by
private companies, but she had not been present to hand them out herself”,
leaving the reader to draw inferences that this ultimately proved to not be the
It is important to dispel this notion that state resources
were improperly used, because the article takes potshots not just at the
department of social development but at the ANC itself, in an attempt to
suggest that the organising of food parcels through Sassa is a common practice.
On page 6 and elsewhere, the report notes that a private
company donated the food parcels which were distributed at the event.
The complainant in this matter used, in support of the
claims, an article that originally appeared in this very newspaper in 2009 –
which stated that Malema handed out the food parcels with Sassa officials, and
that “Sassa paid for the food parcels”.
The public protector’s office conducted interviews with a
number of Sassa officials, and also relied on footage of the event provided by
the SABC. The report says that not only is there no evidence to back up the
claim that Sassa officials were distributing food parcels but also that the
television footage could not “successfully disclose the identity of the person
who handed the food parcels to Mr Malema to distribute”.
That the public protector’s report does not recommend
sanction against me personally is indicative of the fact that no evidence of
wrongdoing on my part exists. Therefore the assertion that this report is “far
more damaging” for me is conjecture.
In seeking to infer mala fides on my
part, the M&G should note my submission to the
report, in which I say: “I cannot be faulted for things that happened in
my absence, without my knowledge and control, if they indeed happened.”
The M&G should exercise
responsible reporting that is not based on misconstruing facts.
Edna Molewa is now the minister of
Clarification: The first edition of this story incorrectly stated that the public protector’s report, State and Party, Blurred Lines,
found the claim that the then minister of social development instructed Sassa
officials to have food parcels organised for distribution at the said event to
be “unsubstantiated”. In fact, the report notes on page eight that
the claim was “substantiated”. Further clarification will be added
when it is provided.
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