Mbulelo Ngxabane vs Daily Dispatch
Fri, Nov 13, 2020
Decision to adjudicate
Publication date: 16 August 2018
Headline: ‘IT man lied on CV says parastatal and he replies, its vendetta’
Author: Bongani Fuzile
Mr Ngxabane complains of a story published in the Daily Dispatch more than two years ago on the grounds that it was untruthful, inaccurate and unfair. Moreover, he says the reporter was “conflicted with a source of information.”
The article says a senior IT official at the Eastern Cape Development Corporation, Mr Mbulelo Ngxabane, allegedly lied on his CV about his academic qualifications. It reported that he had said he had a diploma and B-Tech, as well as a Masters degree in IT. “But an internal investigation found he had not finished his masters degree”.
Both the other certificates were found to be valid – but the advertised job requirements “stipulated a postgraduate qualification”.
It quotes Mr Ngxabane as saying he had been “victimized” and that his contract was still valid and that he was taking the ECDC to the CCMA.
He says when he had been shortlisted for the job, the Corporation knew he had not completed his Masters.
Mr Ngxabane complains that the information published about him was “wrong” and was “meant to taint my reputation and integrity”.
He says the result is that his character has been defamed in the field of Information Technology. He says his contract was “unlawfully terminated” by the Corporation and the case is currently in court.
He is currently finding it difficult to find a job because of this unfavorable report.
He also complains that the reporter, Mr Fuzile, was “conflicted with the source of the information” and this resulted in his publishing “wrong information” about him.
He says his contract was “unlawfully terminated”.
Included in the papers is a letter from his attorneys Sharp, Crisp and Associates, that says they are representing him in the Labour Court.
They say the reason for his dismissal was not because of any wrongdoing or negligence on his part but because ECDC officials “did not follow proper processes in his appointment” and it was deemed void.
Decision of the acting Public Advocate
The acting Public Advocate declined to accept the complaint mainly because it was about an article published more than two years ago.
In a letter to Mr Ngxabane he cited Judge Ngoepe’s appeal decision in the case of Sadmon Projects and Consulting vs Spotlight of 13/3/20  in which the judge said: “The longer a delay, the more cogent the explanation should be..” In that case the complaint was filed only two months after the article was published.
In this case, the delay is of more than two years; condoning such a delay, the acting Public Advocate said, would be “completely unprecedented”.
Moreover, there is the matter of the dispute being the subject of legal proceedings – that is it is before the Labour Court as confirmed by his attorneys.
However, the acting Public Advocate has contacted the internal ombud of the Daily Dispatch, Ms Adrienne Carlisle, who has agreed to publish a report about the outcome of the Labour Court case if they were made aware of it.
Mr Ngxabane appealed to me to adjudicate the complaint, laying out the argument above.
While I am sympathetic to the effect this story may have on Mr Ngxabane’s career and note the position of his attorneys that the fault in his appointment was that of ECDC officials rather than his own, I nonetheless cannot in terms of the Complaints Procedures, adjudicate a complaint based on an article that is more than two years old. The Procedures state that a complaint must be laid within 20 working days of publication.
I am also mindful of the pending Labour Court case.
I strongly hope that the Daily Dispatch will honour its undertaking to the acting Public Advocate to publish the outcome of the case as soon as it is concluded.
However, I must agree with the acting Public Advocate and decline to adjudicate this complaint.
The Complaints Procedure stipulates that within seven working days of receipt of this decision, either party may apply for leave to appeal to the Chairperson of the SA Press Appeals Panel, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.
November 12, 2020