Limpopo ANC vs Polokwane Observer

Compliant: Limpopo ANC

Lodged by:  David Masondo

Article: Rumours rife over Premier’s removal.

Author of article: Yolande Nel and Lesetja Malope

Date: 13 July 2011

Respondent: Polokwane Observer

Complaint

The Limpopo ANC complains about a story in the Polokwane Observer, published in its 26 May – 2 June 2011 edition and headlined Rumours rife over Premier’s removal.

The ANC complains that it was not asked for comment.

I cannot entertain the part of the complaint about the journalist who wrote the story – publications are affiliated to our office and subscribe to the Press Code, not individual journalists. Therefore, I shall disregard all comments by the Polokwane ANC regarding the journalist, as well as all responses to those comments. However, I want to express my sincere wish that the relationship between Nel and the Limpopo ANC will improve, in the interest of the free flow of information.

Analysis

The story, jointly written by Yolande Nel and Lesetja Malope, reports on “persistent rumours” that Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale may be replaced. Sources reportedly claimed that Mathale would have been informed of a Luthuli House decision the previous week. The story mentions some possible replacements. It also says that Mathale’s popularity was waning “due to his perceived close affiliation with ANC Youth League…President Julius Malema” and that the premier was apparently seen as dividing the youth in the province. The story quotes ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu, who reportedly asked who the newspaper’s source was and added that he did not speak to faceless people, before he “dropped the phone”. Mathale’s spokesperson, Phuti Mosomane, reportedly denied that “they” were aware of the premier’s possible replacement.

I shall now consider the merits of the complaint:

Not asked for comment

The Limpopo ANC complains that the journalists “should have at least asked the ANC province about these rumours…so that the Limpopo ANC can give its view on these misleading rumours meant to sow confusion in the province”.

The newspaper says that it attempted to maximize what was perceived as truth and to minimize possible harm. The editor says: “We consulted widely before writing and publishing the story, which was done in conjunction with Polokwane Observer’s Managing Director and Sub Editor.” Nel says that the story does not express opinions, nor does it contain excessive quoting of anonymous sources. She states: “All possible and relevant parties were approached for comment.” She says that the newspaper asked the ANC at its national level for its response, as the apparent decision would have originated with Luthuli House.

To this, the Limpopo ANC replies that its comments should have been solicited – Masondo says the journalist was unprofessional for not having done so.

Note that the story reports that the newspaper asked the ANC’s comment on two fronts – from its national headquarters (Mthembu), and from Mathale’s provincial office (Mosomane).

It is reasonable to assume that the Limpopo ANC would have disputed the reportage that Mthembu and Mosomane were asked for comment if they indeed were not. I therefore accept that the newspaper asked both for comment (national and provincial).

These efforts, I submit, meet the requirements set by the Press Code.

Finding

The complaint is dismissed.

Sanction

There is no sanction.

Appeal

Please note that our Complaints Procedures lay down that within seven days of receipt of this decision, anyone of the parties 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 reached at khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Johan Retief
Deputy Press Ombudsman