Zane Maqethuka vs. Sunday World


Mon, Oct 8, 2012

 

 

Ruling by the Deputy Press Ombudsman

October 7, 2012

This ruling is based on the written submissions of Mr Z. Maqetuka and the Sunday World newspaper.

Complaint

Mr SA first prince Zane Maqetuka complains about a story in the Sunday World on 14 May 2012, headlined Sweet words of illicit love – ‘Mr SA’ first prince wrecked my family.

He complains that:

·         the story used pictures from his past relationship with Ms Ntombs Duka, but falsely presented them as if their relationship was still on-going;

·         he was not contacted for comment; and

·         the story falsely alleged that he had been at Duka’s home during his Mr SA competition.

Analysis

The story, written by Mduduzi Dlamini, was about an on-going affair that Maqetuka was allegedly having with Duka. Her husband reportedly contacted the newspaper and showed the reporter pictures of his wife and Maqetuka and email communication between the two. The story also explained how the husband discovered the affair.

Misleading pictures

Sunday World printed several pictures of Maqetuka and Duka in compromising positions and printed allegations that their relationship was still on-going – after Duka got married to another man. The story said that she had apologized for this in the journalist’s presence. The captions read: “Oh cute: This would be a lovely snuggle bug pic – if she wasn’t married to someone else”, and “Horror! Ntombs Duka and Zane Mandisi Maqetuka being too close for comfort”.

Maqetuka says that these pictures were taken in 2009 – 2010, but complains that the story falsely portrayed the suggestion that his relationship with Duka was still on-going. In later correspondence he says that he was dating her until middle 2010. He adds that Duka married after they had broken up (either in December 2011 or early this year) and denies that their relationship was on-going.

Sunday World’s detailed response covers the interview with the husband and Duka.

I asked the newspaper when the pictures were taken, and the best it could do was to respond that Duka’s husband “suspected” that they were taken this year. Sunday World could therefore not prove that the pictures were taken after Duka’s marriage.

I have no way of knowing when the pictures were taken, and Duka’s husband’s “suspicion” is certainly not enough ground for me to base a decision on this specific issue in favour of the newspaper.

Sunday World also provided me with emails between Maqetuka and Duka to “prove” that their affair was not something of the past – but the latest of these messages was dated 26 August 2010 and they therefore do not prove that their relationship was still on-going.

My question now is not if their affair went on after Duka’s marriage – my office is not a court of law or an arbiter of morals. My only interest is the question whether the journalist was justified in his reporting and if the story was reasonably true.

I asked Sunday World for Dlamini’s notes. Unfortunately, the newspaper could not produce them as it failed to contact him (Dlamini is a freelance journalist and under suspension) – despite some credible attempts to obtain these notes (if they exist).

I also note that, while the story quite consistently did not present the issue of their alleged on-going affair as fact, the captions to the pictures did do exactly that. The first caption directly put the “on-going relationship” as fact; the second one suggests this very strongly (why else would the two be “too close for comfort”?).

Here are my considerations:

·         Both Maqetuka and Duka deny that they still have an affair (after her marriage);

·         The “evidence” that the newspaper provided me with do not prove that it was reasonably true that the relationship was on-going;

·         There is no proof that the pictures were taken recently; and

·         The newspaper did not provide me with any kind of proof that Duka had invited Maqetuka to a seminar in May 2012.

Given all of these factors, I can only conclude that the journalist was not justified in his reporting, that the story was not reasonably true, and that the captions stated an allegation as fact.

The next – serious – conclusion is that the story and usage of the pictures were unfair and caused both Maqetuka and Duka some serious, unnecessary harm.

I have contemplated the question if this was done maliciously (read: the intention to harm). After much thought I have decided that I am not going to ascribe malice to a journalist if incompetence can explain the matter.

Not contacted for comment

Maqetuka complains that the newspaper made no attempt to contact him for his side of the story.

This is not true. Sunday World provided me with an email from Dlamini, directed at Maqetuka and dated 12 May 2012 – two days before publication of the story in dispute. In this email the reporter said that his attempts to get hold of Maqetuka were fruitless; Dlamini then asked him for his side of the story.

I have no reason to disbelieve Dlamini’s statement that he tried several times (“attempts” – plural) to get hold of Maqetuka. Be that as it may, the email itself testifies to the fact that the reporter did try to contact him in good time.

I also note that Dlamini used the correct email address.

Maqetuka had the chance to set the record straight by replying to the email – an opportunity that he did not make use of. His reply would have assisted him, and the newspaper would have been compelled to publish that reply.

At Duka’s home

The story says: “She confessed that she took him to their home in Randpark Ridge, west of Joburg”.

Maqetuka denies that this is true.

So I asked Duka herself, who also denied the alleged incident and that she had “confessed”. She asserted that the reporter had had “created” the story.

This leaves me with an impossible situation – one party says “yes”, the other says “no”, with no basis for me to make a responsible decision on.

I have said earlier that my task is not to determine whether or not the two still have contact, but only to decide whether the reporting was reasonably justified and fair – which I cannot do on this specific issue, as I have no basis to do that. Either way, I am not going to guess. That would be irresponsible, to say the least.

Finding

Misleading pictures

The story used pictures from Maqetuka’s past relationship with Duka, but presented them as if the relationship was still on-going – without any sound journalistic basis to do so.

This is in breach of the following articles of the Press Code:

·         Art. 1.1: “The press shall be obliged to report news…fairly”; and

·         Art. 1.3: “Only what may reasonably be true…may be presented as fact, and such facts shall be published fairly with due regard to context and importance. Where a report is not based on facts or is founded on opinions, allegation, rumour or supposition, it shall be presented in such manner as to indicate this clearly.”

Not contacted for comment

This part of the complaint is dismissed.

At Duka’s home

There is no finding.

Sanction

Sunday World is directed to apologise to Maqetuka for unfairly and unjustifiably portraying his past relationship with Duka as if their affair was still on-going – without any sound journalistic basis to do so.

The newspaper is directed to publish the following text:

Beginning of text:

Sunday World apologises to Mr SA first prince Zane Maqetuka for unfairly and unjustifiably portraying his past relationship with Ms Ntombs Duka as if their affair was still on-going after her marriage to another man – without any sound journalistic basis to do so.

This comes after Maqetuka lodged a complaint with the Press Ombudsman about a story on 14 May 2012, headlined Sweet words of illicit love – ‘Mr SA’ first prince wrecked my family.

He complained that the story had used pictures from his past relationship with Duka, but falsely presented them as if the relationship was still on-going; that he was not contacted for comment; and that the story had falsely alleged that he had been at Duka’s home during his Mr SA competition.

Deputy Press Ombudsman Johan Retief said that:

·         both Maqetuka and Duka deny that they still have an affair (after her marriage);

·         the “evidence” that we provided him with did not prove that this was reasonably true;

·         there was no proof that the pictures were recently taken; and

·         we did not provide him with proof that Duka had invited Maqetuka to a seminar in May 2012.

“Given all of these factors, I can only conclude that the journalist was not justified in his reporting, that the story was not reasonably true, and that the captions stated an allegation as fact. The next – serious – conclusion is that the story and usage of the pictures were unfair and caused both Maqetuka and Duka some serious, unnecessary harm.”

Retief and made no finding on the issue of him being at Duka’s home during the Mr SA competition as he was left an impossible situation – one party says “yes”, the other says “no”, with no basis on which to make a responsible decision. “Either way, I am not going to guess. That would be irresponsible, to say the least.”

He dismissed the complaint that we did not ask Maqetuka for comment.

Visit www.presscouncil.org.za (rulings, 2012) for the full finding.

End of text

Appeal

Please note that our Complaints Procedures lay down that within seven days of receipt of this decision, either party may apply for leave to appeal to the Chairperson of the SA Press Appeals Panel, Judge Ralph Zulman, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Johan Retief

Deputy Press Ombudsman