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Journo: ‘I was paid’

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ashley smith

INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Former Cape Argus journalist Ashley Smith. Photo: Ian Landsberg

In August 2010, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille submitted a report of “alleged corruption against Rasool and others” to the commercial crimes unit.

The dossier related to allegations that journalists had been paid to write stories in former premier Ebrahim Rasool’s favour. The report, compiled by the province’s forensic unit, also dealt with allegations of corruption involving contracts with communications firms during Rasool’s premiership.

Zille said R80 million had been paid to three companies over four years, allegedly all linked to each other.

In September 2010, the provincial government was advised to take disciplinary action against 23 employees over tenders awarded to communications companies during Rasool’s tenure.

The disciplinary process is “at various stages”, but incomplete, said Zille’s spokesman, Zak Mbhele, on Wednesday.

In 2010, former Cape Argus journalist Ashley Smith compiled an affidavit in which he alleged he had received kickbacks for writing stories to promote Rasool, mentioning Marius Fransman’s name four times.

One of the allegations is that Fransman agreed to award a R200 000 communication contract in a closed bid to Inkwenkwezi, the PR company Smith had set up with the Cape Argus’s then-political editor, Joseph Aranes.

Smith alleged that Hip Hop Media director Zain Orrie had regularly told him that his influence with Fransman and Rasool would secure work for Inkwenkwezi.

Smith spoke of his regular meetings with Rasool at Leeuwenhof, attended by Fransman and others. He said Rasool had referred to the Inkwenkwezi trio – Smith, Orrie and Aranes – as his “air force” against the Skwatsha camp.

Smith stated that he and Aranes had met Fransman to discuss a communications strategy for the provincial Housing Department. Fransman had allowed Inkwenkwezi to bid in a closed tender as consultant.

Smith said all of the players, including Fransman, had considered Smith’s role as a Cape Argus journalist to be invaluable to the cause of assisting Rasool.

Smith and Aranes no longer work for the Cape Argus.

Smith submitted his affidavit to the National Prosecuting Authority in July. In exchange, he requested indemnity against any possible criminal charges.

His admission came five years after the allegations were first made to the Cape Argus by members of the Western Cape ANC.

An internal disciplinary hearing hauled Smith up on charges but he resigned before the newspaper’s investigation was complete.

On the available evidence, Aranes was stripped of his political editor position when the allegations first surfaced in 2005. He resigned in 2009.

Smith confirmed under oath that he and Aranes had used their positions at the Cape Argus to assist Rasool’s campaign against political rivals and that they had received money from a PR company that obtained provincial government contracts.

Cape Argus


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