The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written to the Registrar of Parliament’s Ethics Committee, Advocate Anthea Gordon, to submit supplementary evidence to our previous request for the Committee to investigate allegations that Mineral Resources Minister, Gwede Mantashe, bribed two Sunday World journalists with R70 000 to make a story about his personal life “disappear”.
In the 27 October 2019 edition of the Sunday World, the Minister was quoted stating: “Two journalists from your publication called me for the same story. So, you are the third person to call me for the same story, do you also want money? I paid them and now you are calling about the same story. Every time I asked them when they will publish the story, they told me the evidence is destroyed. I begged them not to write the story, I paid two journalists at your publication. I will not reveal their names, you can ask amongst your colleagues and ask Lerato to tell you their names. You can go ahead and write the story, that is my comment.”
The South African National Editors Forum commissioned an independent inquiry to probe ethical practice within the media sector including these allegations and on Monday released the following damning findings related to the Minister:
- Minister Gwede Mantashe showed “executive contempt” for the media when he made public allegations that he had paid R70,000 to Sunday World journalists to kill a story about him.
- The Minister’s actions were a prime example of political and executive disregard and contempt for the media.
- Making an on-the-record allegation and then retracting it without explanation is contemptuous of the media and media practitioners’ function and standing.
- That a Cabinet minister should escape censure from his political confrères indicates a disregard for a fundamental democratic institution.
- Such incidents demonstrate that not only is there subornation and disrespect for the media, but also a growing discourse on the part of politicians that deliberately undermines trust in and the credibility of the media.
The DA has now referred these findings by the independent inquiry to the Ethics Committee for urgent consideration. Minister Mantashe’s utterances were clearly an admission of guilt and are in contravention of Section 4.1 of the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members’ Interests of Parliament. In addition to this, both the Minister and the implicated journalists may have contravened Section 3 of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act.
Parliament has sat on its hands for far too long in this matter and has a duty to send a strong message to all politicians that brown envelope journalism will be dealt with the highest contempt and that those who indulge in such transactions must be held accountable for their actions.