Johannesburg - Businessman Iqbal Survé’s company, Sekunjalo Investments, has laid criminal charges against the Sunday Times newspaper and its journalist Bobby Jordan in connection with the publication of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s provisional report implicating the company.
The charges were laid at a Cape Town police station in terms of the Public Protector Act 23 of 1994, which makes it an offence to publish Madonsela’s provisional reports before they are officially released to the public. But the police have declined to investigate.
“I can confirm that an individual reported an alleged illegal publication in a newspaper at a Cape Town police station,” said Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut. “However, the incident is regarded as a civil matter and therefore no criminal investigation will be instituted.”
Traut would not identify the person who laid the charge.
On Tuesday night, Sunday Times editor Phylicia Oppelt declined to comment.
The Public Protector report was on her investigation into the awarding of a tender by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for the management of its fleet of patrol and research vessels.
The Sunday Times reported that Madonsela’s provisional report found there was collusive tendering and/or bid rigging by the Sekunjalo consortium.
Sekunjalo denied the wrongdoing listed in the report.
“Collusive tendering occurs when two or more parties in a competitive relationship agree to tender in such a manner that competition between them for that tender is eliminated, rather than to submit independent competitive bids. The outcome of collusive tendering is that the customer pays an artificially high price. The bids by the four bidding entities in the Sekunjalo/Premier Fishing stable contain none of these traits,” Survé said in a statement.
Independent Newspapers, which owns The Star and IOL, was recently bought by Survé’s Sekunjalo Independent Media.
On Tuesday night, the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) raised concern about Survé’s foray against the media, saying it could be perceived as sending the wrong message to the Independent group.
“It’s very unfortunate that while we are fighting against the potential criminalisation of information dissemination (the secrecy bill), we are faced with this kind of action from a company that should be our strategic ally,” said Mpumelelo Mkhabela, the chairman of Sanef.
“I hope it’s not true, and if it is, I would appeal to the complainant to kindly consider withdrawing the charges.
“There is a real risk that such a legal action could harm investigative journalism, reducing journalists to mere receptionists of so-called authorised information.”
Madonsela recently spoke of her unhappiness about the leaking of draft reports, saying she would no longer give affected parties full reports, but only the relevant sections, as a way of guarding against leaks.
This was after her provisional Nkandla report into the R206 million security upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s private home was leaked to the Mail & Guardian.
* We have corrected the headline on this story, which incorrectly referred to the Nkandla report.