The police have decided to investigate Sekunjalo Investments’ complaint against the Sunday Times as a criminal complaint instead of dismissing it as a civil matter.
The case relates to the newspaper’s publication of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s provisional report implicating the company in the awarding of a government tender for management of its fleet of patrol and research vessels.
Western Cape police confirmed on Wednesday that a criminal complaint had been opened at Cape Town Central police station. They had on Tuesday refused to investigate, claiming the “incident is regarded as a civil matter”.
On Wednesday, however, they opened a docket after reviewing their decision.
“This office can confirm that an individual reported a matter regarding an alleged illegal publication in a newspaper at Cape Town Central police station last night (Tuesday). This morning, an investigation into the circumstances of the complaint has been instituted,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut.
Asked if police were now probing this as a criminal matter, Traut responded: “We only investigate criminal matters.”
While Traut declined to elaborate further, Sekunjalo boss Iqbal Survé furnished us with a case number. In a statement, Sekunjalo chief executive Khalid Abdulla said: “We look forward to receipt of a report on the investigation by the SAPS, and hope that the National Prosecuting Authority will ensure that the provisions of the Public Protector Act, 1994 are upheld.”
The charges arose from an article in the Sunday Times quoting extensively from the findings of Madonsela’s draft provisional report into the awarding of a tender by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Among the purported findings were allegations of collusive tendering and/or bid rigging by the Sekunjalo consortium.
A livid Survé, who owns Sekunjalo, denied any wrongdoing. He said publication of Madonsela’s provisional report was part of a malicious campaign by the Times Media Group – Sunday Times’s owners – to discredit his company. Sunday Times editor Phylicia Oppelt has refused to comment.
Survé said the publishing of the interim report had seriously prejudiced and compromised Sekunjalo.
“Our rights have been violated and our company harmed by this selective reporting. We are very prejudiced because it looks like we are guilty. Surely, the law must apply consistently to everybody. If the public protector wants people to comment publicly on the provisional report, then they should amend that (act).”
Survé accused the Sunday Times of using the provisional report completely out of context for profit gain. He said the paper had targeted him while the contract had nothing to do with him or Independent Newspapers.
“Independent Newspapers is just part of the holding company. The Sunday Times keeps making reference to me, but the reality is that this contract has nothing to do with me. It is merely part of the listed company.”
Independent Newspapers, which owns The Star and IOL, was recently bought by Sekunjalo Independent Media.