Xelimpilo Simelane vs Sunday Sun

Complainant:  Xelimpilo Simelane

Lodged by:  Dominic Komane

Article:  Nyaope’s messing with Xeli

Author of article:  Kgomotso Moganedi

Date: 10 June 2016

Respondent:  Johan Vos, deputy editor of the Sunday Sun newspaper

Complaint

He complains the story has unnecessarily harmed his reputation because it falsely stated that he:

·         was evicted from his house over the festive season and stayed over at friends’ houses;

·         drank beer in the street; and

·         smoked the drug nyaope;

He adds that his business has lost sponsors, dignity, gigs, events and money, and states that he is willing to take blood tests to prove that he does not smoke or eat nyaope. (He says the journalist stopped him from taking such tests.)

The text

The story, written by Kgomotso Moganedi, said that “Xeli” Simelane, a member of the four-man music group Uhuru, had allegedly been kicked out of his townhouse in Midrand. According to sources, the singer was evicted for defaulting on his rent, and allegedly he was constantly on a high. Another source was quoted as saying that Simelane was addicted to nyaope.

The arguments

Vos replies one of the guards at the estate told the journalist:

·         “There were numerous incidents at Xelimpilo’s house, he often hosted parties and violated the rules at the estate, invited friends over after 10pm at night. Neighbours often complained about the noise coming from his house when he hosted parties”;

·         “Towards [the] end of September, he wasn’t longer hosting parties, I assume it was because of the rent and he was behind with monthly rentals”; and

·         “On December 18th, Xeli was evicted from his house due to outstanding monthly rentals and disobeying the rules.”

The deputy editor says he will reveal the identity of this source to me on condition of anonymity.

Analysis

I take the following into account:

·         Simelane is a public figure, and the media are more likely to publish allegations about drug abuse etc. than would have been the case otherwise;

·         The allegations came from different and independent sources, and I have no reason to believe that they have conspired to all tell the same story (although from different perspectives); and

·         I find it difficult to believe that the journalist would have prevented Simelane from taking a drug test – surely, that was the latter’s choice, and the reporter had no say in this matter.

From the above, I cannot conclude that the story was necessarily correct, but I do believe that Sunday Sun had enough reason to believe that it was reasonably true (and therefore to continue to publish the story).

Finding

The complaint is dismissed.

Appeal

Our Complaints Procedures lay down 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.

Johan Retief

Press Ombud