Lassy Chiwayo vs Sunday World

Complainant: Lassy Chiwayo

Lodged by: Lassy Chiwayo

Article: SA envoy loses it – Naked diplomat Chiwayo recalled

Author of article: Ngwako Malatji

Date: 29 June 2013

Respondent: Sunday World

Complaint

Mr Lassy Chiwayo, former consul-general to China and also ex-mayor of Mbombela, complains about a story in Sunday World on 11 March 2013, headlined SA envoy loses it – Naked diplomat Chiwayo recalled.

He complains that the journalist:

·         had based his story on malicious rumours and lies, which violated his privacy and dignity; and

·         did not verify his information.

Analysis

The story, written by Ngwako Malatji, said that Chiwayo had allegedly been recalled after he allegedly walked naked around the streets close to his Shanghai official residence about three months ago. The reporter added: “It is also alleged that Chiwayo assaulted South Africa’s ambassador to China, Bheki Langa at a function in Beijing.” Chiwayo reportedly dismissed these allegations.

Rumours, lies – leading to violations of privacy, dignity

After stating the above, Malatji also wrote: “A source tells Sunday World that Chiwayo, due to an unconfirmed medical condition, had been acting strangely before he was recalled.” He also reported that the source had told him that Chiwayo “would disappear for days without trace”.

Chiwayo denies all of the above “in the strongest terms possible” and complains that the references to his medical condition violated his privacy and dignity. He also denies the allegation that he was “escorted to the airport by police officers” and that he was subdued with tranquilisers upon arrival at the OR Tambo airport.

Sunday World replies that it is satisfied that “the highly placed sources we quoted in the story did not peddle any rumours”. It adds that the allegations in the story by its sources were also supported by a statement by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

On 9 March 2013, two days before the publication of the story in dispute, Mr Clayson Monyela of this department said the following in an email to Malatji: “Mr L Chiwayo our former Consul-General to Shenghai (sic) in China is back in South Africa. Whilst on official duty in China he experienced health related challenges which necessitated the termination of his posting as Consul-General. He is currently receiving professional assistance from relevant units in the department.”

This justified the newspaper to have published the relevant allegation by its source(s).

Regarding Chiwayo’s denial that he was escorted to the airport in China and that he was subdued with tranquilisers when he arrived in South Africa, I note that the:

·         story reported that these were allegations by a source (and did not state it as fact); and

·         source’s other information was greatly verified by the department (which made this source credible).

Therefore, it seems reasonable for the newspaper to have reported the above-mentioned allegations as allegations.

No verification

Chiwayo complains that Malatji did not verify his information “and published a story from unsubstantiated rumors and using faceless sources that I am convinced have never been in China”.

On the contrary, the newspaper did verify its information – it asked the relevant department for comment, which confirmed/verified/substantiated the gist of Malatji’s information.

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 Adjudication Panel, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Johan Retief

Press Ombudsman