Zondo slams ‘money-hungry’ media

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo dragged media over the coals for allegedly disseminating portions of former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi’s sworn statement to the commission of inquiry into state capture.

Before Agrizzi began his fifth day of testimony before the commission, giving his evidence on Tuesday, Zondo addressed the commission, levelling stern criticism against journalists and editors.

Zondo referenced articles published in certain newspapers over the weekend, which contained allegations against high-profile state officials, including Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane. The allegations formed part of Agizzi’s evidence, but the details of these claims had yet to be revealed in his oral testimony. 

READ MORE: Mokonyane slams Zondo commission amid Bosasa allegations

Regulation 11(3) of the commission’s governing rules stipulates that:

“No person shall without the written permission of the Chairperson


(a) disseminate any document submitted to the Commission by any person in connection with the inquiry or publish the contents or any portion of the contents of such document; or

(b) peruse any document, including any statement, which is destined to be submitted to the Chairperson or intercept such document while it is being taken or forwarded to the Chairperson.”

Regulation 12(2)(c)(ii) goes on to state that any person who contravenes Regulation 11 “is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction … to a fine, or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months”.

“I want to start off by saying that I have the highest respect for many journalists and editors and newspapers who conduct their business professionally and in accordance with the law,” Zondo said. But Zondo expressed his disappointment at certain journalists allegedly breaching the rules of the commission by publishing aspects of Agrizzi’s statement.

Members of the media have previously landed in hot water with the commission for publishing articles based on statements that were not yet public.

READ MORE: Zondo reprimands media for leaked submissions

On Tuesday, Zondo questioned whether journalists and editors had chosen to publish these articles in the interest of the public.

He added that it seemed newspapers are more interested in making money or in beating out their competitors by getting the scoop on allegations of state capture. “But there is nothing in the public interest,” Zondo said.

“It is wrong. It is unacceptable. It undermines the work or the commission. And for what? A scoop, to make a profit.”

Zondo said that if any newspaper takes issue with the commission’s regulations regarding the dissemination of witness statements, they should take court action.

The Mail & Guardian, Media Monitoring Africa and the Daily Maverick are currently preparing a legal challenge against the commission concerning the right of the media to access documents submitted to the commission, as well as the media’s right to publish such documents.

The legal challenge will argue that it is unacceptable for the commission to make witness statements available to the media only after a witness has testified and to make statements available without their relevant annexures.

“There are many journalists and editors for whom I have the highest respect. I thank them for their professionalism and what they are doing,” Zondo added.

On Monday, Mokonyane’s lawyers slammed the commission for the alleged leaks of information contained in Agrizzi’s sworn statement.

Those implicated in Agrizzi’s testimony had not been notified by the commission because of security concerns. On the first day of Agrizzi’s testimony, it was revealed that he had allegedly received a number of threats on his life in the days leading up to his appearance.

Agrizzi told the commission Mokonyane had received gifts and favours from Bosasa from as early as 2002. These were allegedly made in exchange for her “protection” of the controversial service provider. 

READ MORE: Bosasa and the Moyane money

“Our client is of the view that her constitutional right to be heard before the commission resolved to deviate from rule 3.3 [the rule that tasks the commission with notifying implicated persons] denying her access to Mr Agrizzi’s statement has been breached,” Mokonyane’s lawyer’s wrote in a letter.

According to the letter, Mokonyane “felt betrayed by the fact that the newspapers … had access to the contents of the affidavit and expected her to respond to such allegation.”

“It is apparent to our client that there are officials of the commission who are bent to undermine the integrity of the commission and tramp on the rights of implicated persons,” the letter adds.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

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.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Covid-overflow hospital in ruins as SIU investigates

A high-level probe has begun into hundreds of millions of rand spent by the Gauteng health department to refurbish a hospital that is now seven months behind schedule – and lying empty

Q&A Sessions: ‘I should have fought harder for SA vaccine’...

Professor Salim Abdool Karim talks to Nicolene de Wee about his responsibility as head of the ministerial advisory committee tasked with guiding the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

More top stories

Children may benefit when parents share their digital gaming...

Digital games can provide forums for diverse groups of people to come together, which is especially important while our physical activities are restricted

‘No one took us seriously’: Black cops warned about racist...

Allegations of racism against the Capitol Police are nothing new: Over 250 Black cops have sued the department since 2001. Some of those former officers now say it’s no surprise white nationalists were able to storm the building

Pay-TV inquiry probes the Multichoice monopoly

Africa’s largest subscription television operator says it is under threat amid the emerging popularity of global platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime

​No apology or comfort as another Marikana mother dies without...

Nomawethu Ma’Bhengu Sompeta, whose funeral will be held this weekend, was unequivocal in calling out the government for its response to the Marikana massacre
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…