Johannesburg - African National Congress spokesman Zizi Kodwa on Sunday dismissed an article in the Sunday Times about the politically-connected Gupta family’s influence over government as “nothing but gossip masquerading as news”.
The ANC would approach the Press Ombudsman to seek relief against the “poor and shoddy journalism of the Sunday Times, where clearly there is no commitment to high standards in journalistic ethics and practice”, Kodwa said.
ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte would also seek legal advice on her options “with regards to the lies being peddled about her by the paper”.
The article headlined “How Gupta shopped for Finance Minister” was in direct contravention of the Press Code which enjoined the media “to report news truthfully, accurately, and fairly”, Kodwa said.
The code further cautioned the media to “avoid the use of anonymous sources unless there is no other way to deal with a story” and “care should be taken to corroborate the information”.
“In the paper’s overzealousness to portray the leadership of the ANC in general, and the deputy secretary general in particular, as collaborators to fit the fictitious narrative of a Gupta-controlled country, the Sunday Times ignores these basic principles of the Press Code and presents as fact allegations, suppositions, and rumours.
“No care is taken to corroborate the story and scant regard is given to the fact that all those being implicated by the Sunday Times in the story have roundly rejected the allegations. The Sunday Times stays true to the adage that one cannot let the truth stand in the way of a good story; as false as it may be,” Kodwa said.
According to the Sunday Times article, “sources” said Ajay Gupta and his younger brother Atul offered Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas the position of finance minister on condition he purge the National Treasury of those opposing a proposed nuclear deal.
President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane was present when members of the Gupta family offered Jonas then-finance minister Nhlanhla Nene’s job, the newspaper reported.
“Jonas is said to have been offered the finance ministry twice, first by the Guptas at a Sandton hotel on November 27 last year, and again a few days later by ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte,” the Sunday Times reported.
Jonas reportedly turned the Guptas down.
The Democratic Alliance on Sunday called on Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to step in and “clean up the mess”.
Jonas had reportedly done the right thing and left the meeting telling participants “you don’t run the country”, DA spokesman David Maynier said.
“We do not know whether the story [in the Sunday Times] is true, but the fact that the deputy minister [Jonas] has refused to confirm or deny the reports creates the impression that the reports are true.
“That is why the Minister of Finance Pravin Gordon must now step in and clean up the mess created by the deputy minister’s refusal to comment.
“The deputy minister’s zigzagging has created the impression that the reports are true. That is why we need the minister to tell us the truth and give us the assurance that National Treasury is ‘Gupta-proof’,” Maynier said.