/ 18 May 2018

‘Misleading headline and inaccuracies in M&G’

'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'
'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'

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.

READ MORE: Mabe tied to R49m North West tender

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:

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

READ MORE: Mabe disputes M&G tender deal front page

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.

This statement, which was issued by Pule Mabe following our lead story last week, has been edited to conform to the M&G’s style