Appeal Decision: Baleka Mbete vs Mail and Guardian

Decision: Application for leave to appeal

Applicant: Mail & Guardian

Respondent: Baleka Mbete

DECISION: Application for Leave to Appeal to the Appeals Panel

  1. The Appellant, the Mail & Guardian, applies for leave to appeal the Ruling handed down by the Ombudsman dated 29 November 2013. The Ruling followed a complaint which had been filed by the Respondent, Ms Mbete. The complaint followed the publication of a story on 13 September 2013, headlined: “Mbete looks out for Number One-Behind the Gold Fields pickle is a powerful politician who favours progress over principle.”
  2. As summed up by the Ombudsman, the complaint is essentially that the story erroneously reported that Respondent “had been accused of having exploited state funds and that she had reportedly paid back her share” and that she “received an illegal driver’s license in 1997.” The complaint was that the story did, amongst others, cast aspersions on Respondent’s integrity and standing in society.
  3. In his Ruling, the Ombudsman found in favour of the Respondent and imposed a sanction for publication, which he crafted. The Applicant now seeks leave to appeal to the Appeals Panel against both the findings and the sanction. The application is opposed by the Respondent.
  4. For the application to succeed, the Applicant must show reasonable prospects of success before the Appeals Panel. After considering the matter and the submissions by both parties, I am of the view that the Applicant has reasonable prospects of success. It would not be appropriate for me to go into the reasons why I think so, lest I prejudice the one or the other party. One further consideration weighed with me: there is another application for leave to appeal in respect of yet another complaint by the Respondent against the Applicant. In that matter, the Ombudsman found against the present Respondent in favour of the Applicant. Therefore, in that matter, it is the Respondent who seeks leave to appeal, which application is likewise opposed by the Applicant. Without implying that that is in fact the case, there may well be some commonalities or relevant or corresponding threads between the two matters. I think it would be appropriate for both matters to be heard on appeal.
  5. The Application therefore succeeds, and leave is hereby granted to the Mail & Guardian to appeal the Ombudsman’s Ruling of 29 November 2013, in respect of both the findings and the sanction, to the Appeals Panel.

Dated this 22nd day of February 2013

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel