Johannesburg - The Press Ombudsman has upheld a complaint by President Jacob Zuma's wife Thobeka Madiba-Zuma that a story by the Isolezwe newspaper was false.
Ombudsman Johan Retief, in a ruling released on Wednesday, directed the Zulu-language newspaper to publish the following: “Isolezwe unreservedly apologises to Ms Thobeka Madiba-Zuma - see page five” on its front page.
This would be immediately under its masthead, in a size that matched its wording on March 23, the day the original article was published.
A summary of Retief's finding and sanction, together with an appropriate apology was also to be added.
The article, was carried by Isolezwe with the headline stating:
“Zuma's wife and suspicions of robbery - said to have sold a car that does not exist.”
Madiba-Zuma complained the story contained false allegations, that the journalist did not give her enough time to respond and that the publication caused harm to her reputation and dignity with its unsubstantiated allegations.
According to Retief, the story claimed that Mbali Khumalo from Mpendle, KwaZulu-Natal had opened a case against Madiba-Zuma for robbing her of R40 000 after Madiba-Zuma had agreed to sell her a Toyota Raider for R46 000.
Khumalo was reportedly going to pay the outstanding R6 000 after she had collected the car - but the vehicle seemed to be unavailable and no refund was forthcoming.
The journalist reportedly quoted Khumalo as saying that the car belonged to Madiba-Zuma's mother and that she had deposited the money into an account held in the name of CA Dlamini which was believed to be Thobeka's mother's account.
Madiba-Zuma complained that she knew nothing about the content of the story, or Khumalo.
She also denied that her mother was CA Dlamini.
Sandile Mdadane, weekend editor of the newspaper responded, saying a follow-up article in which Madiba-Zuma's side of the story was reflected was published.
“I am afraid that Mdadane mistakenly seems to think that it was enough for him to have included Madiba-Zuma's “side” of the matter - without clearly and unequivocally enough stating as fact that the newspaper got it wrong in the first place. This is worrisome,” Retief said.
He said admitting one was wrong was different from reporting the other “side” of a story.
He found that the story had unnecessarily damaged Madiba-Zuma's reputation and dignity.
“Not only was it inaccurate; it was also fundamentally unfair to her.”