Nathi Mthethwa vs The Citizen

Complainant:  Nathi Mthethwa

Lodged by: Nathi Mthethwa

Article: Mdluli hired minister’s son

Author of article: Paul Kirk

Date: 19 July 2012

Respondent: The Citizen

Complaint

Mr Nathi Mthethwa complains about a story in The Citizen on 14 April 2012 and headlined Mdluli hired minister’s son.

Mthethwa complains that the:
  • newspaper published a story about two of his children without first asking him for comment; and
  • story is untrue and without any foundation.
Analysis

The story, written by Paul Kirk, says that Crime Intelligence boss Richard Mdluli apparently hired two unemployed children of Mthethwa as covert police crime intelligence agents despite them not having any relevant experience.

No comment

The newspaper provided me with copies of email correspondence on the day prior to publication. This includes an email that the reporter sent to Mthethwa’s spokesperson at 14:54, as well as numerous correspondences between Kirk and his deputy news editor regarding the former’s repeated attempts to get hold of the spokesperson.

Based on this information, I am satisfied that the newspaper took reasonable steps to get comment from Mthethwa.

Untrue, without foundation

In his complaint, Mthethwa does not specify what exactly is “untrue” and “without foundation” in the story. I therefore asked him for clarification, upon which his spokesperson sent me a media statement (dated 20 April 2012). In this document, Mthethwa denied that any of his children or relatives was employed by the SAPS.

The newspaper provided me with a document headlined Sons of Nathi Mthethwa within C.I. It then lists w/o L.S. Mthethwa and w/o T. Ngubane. Both were appointed on 1 July 2010. There is also a sentence that reads: “Both the minister’s children were employed by Lt.Gen. Mdludli…”

Based on this evidence, which I find credible (the source came from within the SAPS), the journalist was justified in his reportage.

However, that does not necessarily make the report accurate.

It bothers me that the newspaper did not publish Mthethwa’s denial that any of his sons was employed within the SAPS.

Finding
The complaint is dismissed.
Sanction

I cannot sanction a publication if I have dismissed a complaint. However, in this case I am urging (not directing) the newspaper to publish Mthethwa’s denial. That would be the right and fair thing to do.

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