Media Monitoring Africa notes with great concern the deliberate obfuscation by Minister of Mineral and Energy Resources, Gwede Mantashe in relation to his admission of having paid journalists at the Sunday World to “bury” a story where he is alleged to have had an extramarital affair with a popular influencer and student. (As reported in the Sunday World on 27 October 2019)
In answering questions put forward to him by the Sunday World regarding whether or not he had a relationship with the student, Mantashe’s response to the questions was quoted as follows.
“Two journalists from your publication called me for the same story. So, you are the third person to call me for the same story, do you also want money? I paid them and now you are calling about the same story. Every time I asked them when they will publish the story, they told me the evidence is destroyed.
“I begged them not to write the story, I paid two journalists at your publication. I will not reveal their names, you can ask amongst your colleagues and ask Lerato to tell you their names. You can go ahead and write the story, that is my comment,” he said.
When prompted to reveal the identities of the journalists Mr Mantashe. Minster Mantashe refused to give the names of the journalists. However, in a dramatic turn of events three days later, Minister Mantashe – through his Chief of Staff in the Department of Mineral and Energy Resources was reported to have denied having paid the journalists, .
Given the contradicting statements, it would appear that Mr Mantahse hoped to implicate the Sunday World in wrongdoing, perhaps to divert attention away from the story of his extramarital affair. As much as the Minister’s personal sex life doesn’t seem to have any legitimate public interest, the effort to divert attention by claiming he had bribed two journalists made it all a lot worse.
The effort by Mr Mantahse undermines media freedom, impugns the credibility of the media and their integrity. In addition, Mr Mantahse has also undermined the office he holds, and has brought our government and his party into disrepute. On top of all this Mr Mantahse is also potentially guilty of a criminal act.
In a period where the country is plagued by unbridled corruption, and media credibility is undergoing great scrutiny, a public official having admitted to seeking to bribe or having succeeded in bribing journalists is a serious offence that ought to have serious consequences for both the officials and journalists who accepted the bribe.
It is disgraceful that instead of seeking to act against it, our government and the ANC seem satisfied to take no action and not even launch disciplinary action against Mr Mantashe. It is a dangerous precedent to set as it undermines not just our government and the rule of law but the basic system of accountability. If our government and the political parties fail to act on such a clear case why should the public have any faith at all in any of their stated commitments to combatting wrong doing?
The media, and the Sunday World in particular, to their credit have announced an investigation into the allegations, and SANEF has called for the names to be revealed so action can be taken. MMA supports this call for names to be revealed, but we also call on government to urgently take action against such wrongdoing.
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