Odwa Makiwane vs Sunday World

Complainant: Odwa Makiwane

Article: Costly designer screw up

Date: 12 September 2012

Respondent: Sunday World

Complaint

Mr Odwa Makiwane complains about a page 5 story in the Sunday World on 6 November 2011 and headlined Costly designer screw up.

He complains that the story falsely created the impression that the journalist had obtained information from him – while the journalist never interviewed him. He also says that this had led to misrepresentations (without pointing out exactly what he meant), and adds that this has created the impression that he had disclosed confidential information about his client (the Royal Marang Hotel) to the newspaper.

Analysis

The story, written by Bongani Mdakane, says that five-star Royal Marang Hotel had been demanding R20 000 from top fashion designer David Tlale. This reportedly came after Tlale allegedly reneged on the contract, after which the hotel cancelled the deal and demanded approximately R200 000 back.

Makiwane complains that the story falsely created the impression that the journalist had obtained his information from him – while the journalist had never interviewed him.

He does not take issue with any fact in the story.

Sunday World says that the story was based on documents received from one of the directors working at Royal Bafokeng Holdings, which owns the hotel. The story was based on a letter of demand written by Makiwane to the designer. The newspaper says that no direct quotes were used but only references to the agreement.

The story indeed referred to an agreement/contract. However, it also stated: “Royal Marang’s lawyer, Odwa Makiwane, said…” It is not clear that this comes from any document – instead, it rather created the impression is that the journalist had received information from the Makiwane himself.

Clearly, that impression is false. I do not believe for one second that this mistake was made maliciously or intentionally – yet it remained misleading (with possible unnecessary consequences for Makiwane) and should therefore be rectified.

Finding

The story falsely created the impression that Makiwane gave information to the journalist.

This is in breach of Art. 1.1 of the Press Code that states: “The press shall be obliged to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly.”

Sanction

Sunday World is directed to publish a correction stating that the information in the story was based on a letter of demand furnished by a source and that Makiwane was not interviewed, nor did he provide any information to the newspaper.

The newspaper should furnish our office with the text prior to publication. Please add to the text: “Visit www.presscouncil.org.za (rulings, 2012) for the full finding.”

Appeal

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