WhatsApp claiming reporter was axed over Bosasa article dismissed as ‘fake news’

The Sunday Times has dismissed as fake, a statement which claims a reporter was suspended for refusing to write a “fabricated” front page article about the links between former president Jacob Zuma and the Bosasa scandal.

The statement which is being circulated on WhatsApp, was purportedly written by a Sunday Times journalist and alleges an editor at the publication forced the reporter to fabricate an article connecting Jacob Zuma Foundation head Dudu Myeni and Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane to allegations of corruption at Bosasa.

“I was told my story was ‘basic’ and had no punch because it was not on Zuma,” the WhatsApp message states.

Farida Joyce, the journalist whose name is attached to the statement, has denied writing the statement, adding that she has never been employed at the Sunday Times. The publication confirmed this.

When the cellphone number at the end of the alleged statement is dialled, it goes straight to voicemail.

The WhatsApp message began to do the rounds in the wake of former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi’s testimony before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.

READ MORE: Agrizzi: ‘I was caught in a cult of bribes’

On the first day of Agrizzi’s testimony, which was kept under wraps because of threats to his life, it was revealed that Myeni would be implicated during the course of the evidence.

An affidavit submitted by Frank Dutton, the commission’s lead investigator, stated that evidence that Myeni had allegedly shared confidential National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) documents with Agrizzi and Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson had been corroborated.

The documents were allegedly handed to Agrizzi and Watson at a 2015 meeting at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria. They reportedly outlined the ongoing investigation by the Hawks and the NPA into Bosasa, which has been plagued with allegations of misconduct for over a decade.

Agrizzi’s testimony has sparked widespread interest in the capture of the state by Bosasa, which Watson’s “right-hand man” claims operated through the ubiquitous bribing of state, union and company officials in order to secure multimillion-rand tenders at state entities.

Over the weekend, news publications, including the Sunday Times, ran articles revealing new details about Myeni’s alleged connection to Bosasa.

According to the Sunday Times article, Myeni was allegedly paid R300 000 a month in “hush money” to help shut down the state’s investigation into Bosasa. The money was allegedly destined for the coffers of the Jacob Zuma Foundation.

Agrizzi is also expected to tell the commission about how he had been given a list of Christmas groceries to buy for Mokonyane every year since 2002, the Sunday Times wrote. Mokonyane denied receiving bribes from Bosasa.

On the fabricated WhatsApp message, the South African National Editors’ Forum’s media freedom chair, Mary Papayya, said in the run-up to the national elections, “we will see a lot of fake news circulating especially on social media”.

Papayya added that, in light of efforts to discredit journalists, reporters must be vigilant and ensure their work holds up to scrutiny.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.
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