Business tycoon Zunaid Moti has refuted amaBhungane’s latest claims that the alleged warrants of arrest of three of its journalists, Micah Reddy and Dewald van Rensburg, and its managing partner, Sam Sole, had anything to do with him.
Moti said on Wednesday that this was part of amaBhungane’s smear campaign, emphasising that he had not yet laid any criminal complaints against the organisation, Sole or its journalists.
“AmaBhungane’s latest allegations are completely false and the entire story is disingenuous, to say the least. AmaBhungane is clearly using cheap media tactics in an attempt to gain sympathy among other journalists and the public for its unprofessional and unethical behaviour in using stolen information,” he said.
“I have the greatest respect for the media in general, but amaBhungane’s latest statement about warrants of arrest exemplifies, once again, the false narrative that is being perpetuated against myself and my former company.”
Moti has since left the Moti Group. The company did lay criminal charges in Zimbabwe and South Africa against an ex-employee, attorney Clinton van Niekerk, after a digital forensic investigation confirmed that he was responsible for the theft of more than 4 000 confidential company documents.
These documents were shared with various third parties, including The Sentry, an international investigative journalism organisation based in the US.
The Sentry then collaborated with amaBhungane to release an article about Moti’s business dealings in Zimbabwe.
amaBhungane was then warned that the documents used as the basis for its article had been stolen and that they may have been altered, but it refused to allow the Moti Group the opportunity to authenticate the documents.
Moti’s statement said that it was suspicious that Van Niekerk’s lawyer, Steven May, was also acting on behalf of amaBhungane.
“We can only assume that this means amaBhungane, without a doubt, received the stolen documents from Van Niekerk, and chose to ignore our attempts to seek justice and fair journalism, but instead decided to pursue sensationalist accusations which they cannot prove.
“Every person has the constitutional right to defend themselves, but I have been repeatedly refused this right by Sam Sole and his selected journalists involved. They then used these stolen documents to make some elaborate assumptions, dealing with the information in a highly subjective manner to reach ridiculous conclusions. There is an obvious bias involved, which ultimately brings the entire journalism profession into disrepute.
“This latest story about their fear of arrest or persecution is clearly a sign of a guilty conscience, as they have made themselves party to a crime. They cannot hide behind the fact that they are journalists – they knew that they were dealing with stolen documents, and that doing so has made them complicit. No one is above the law, not even journalists, and justice will eventually take its course.”
Moti noted that the timing of the article was suspicious given its various allegations against Zimbabwean political figures, and the upcoming Zimbabwean election.
“I strongly believe that there is a hidden agenda at play in amaBhungane’s reporting, and that supposedly independent media is being influenced by outside interests, or perhaps has even been captured.
“We must hold media accountable for their reporting, and for fulfilling their duty for accurate, balanced and unbiased reporting. Freedom of speech belongs to everyone, not just journalists, and I believe that there are some serious questions that must be answered about the manner in which amaBhungane is operating.”
Moti said AmaBhungane's smear campaign was a poor reflection on the media industry and that its actions were an unscrupulous ploy to deflect the attention from its own wrongdoing.
He questioned why the AmaBhungane team was apprehensive about the possible legal repercussions if they were innocent. Moti suggested that Sole should wear the shoe if it fits.
Watch the video below where Moti speaks about the matter in further detail: