OPINION: Why twist the facts in the PIC saga?

By Ayanda Mdluli Time of article published Feb 7, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG - On Tuesday, Business Day writer at large Carol Paton tweeted: “I see our (sic) friends at Independent Newspapers are calling for Mondli Gungubele to go. Here is why he shouldn't”, in yet another unprovoked attack on Independent Media.

In another tweet, she further cocked a snook at “commentators” brazenly telling analysts (most of whom are black, by the way) with PhDs and economists to familiarise themselves with “the facts” before opening their mouths.

It is fascinating how, in 2019, some leading journalists and their media houses in South Africa have taken it upon themselves to come out and defend politicians who are implicated in corruption scandals where billions of rand have been looted at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).

South Africa has undoubtedly entered an era of embedded “agenda setting” journalism, where media houses are now providing reputation management services for their favourite politicians to go on media tours in an effort to clear their names when facing corruption allegations.

In the article, titled: “Resignation of PIC board provides a clean slate for future”, Paton claims that allegations against Gungubele “amount to naive errors of judgment or a less innocent attempt to protect people suspected of corruption in the PIC. In no way, though, do his actions in and of themselves amount to corruption or wrongdoing. They do not raise the question of whether he should step aside as deputy minister.”

She further states that: “It is unfortunate that Gungubele got tangled in this mess”

The reality is that Gungubele is alleged to be involved in an intricate web of corruption, cronyism and a nepotism patronage network involving board member Sibusisiwe Zulu - Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Minister Zweli Mkhize’s niece - and her live-in lover Lawrence Mulaudzi.

The economists, academics and political commentators who commented on why Gungubele should step down formed their views on the latest allegations as well as the collective resignations that took place.

Looking at the glossing over of Gungubele’s involvement in the PIC corruption scandal, there seems to be limited objectivity or journalistic integrity being practised if one insinuates that the views of experts in our political and economic landscape have been conjured up by Independent Media.

The statement that Independent Media called for Gungubele to resign is a gross misrepresentation of the truth and rather ironic, as it comes from the same sequence of tweets that is calling for people to familiarise themselves with the facts “before opening their mouths”.

Independent Media did not call for Gungubele to resign. Experts in the field did.

The calls were not opinion pieces as the story quoted verified experts, who gave their views on what is happening at the PIC.

Gungubele, the PIC chairperson, was accused by a whistle-blower of colluding with Zulu and the acting chief executive Matshepo More to benefit from contracts.

This has been widely reported, but Business Day chose to hide the details of the accusations levelled by James Nogu, especially that the role of PIC directors had in their dealings with Ascendis, Karan Beef and Total.

The deals implicate a number of politicians who are seen to be part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s camp.

In their letter, the PIC directors claimed that they were resigning because of the corruption allegations being levelled against them.

They asked Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to relieve them of their duties until the investigation was over.

As deputy minister, chairing the PIC function is an intrinsic aspect of Gungubele’s portfolio, and if he has been implicated in graft, the commentators and the rest of the public are well within their rights to inquire as to why he does not put his money where his mouth is.

The bottom line is that if a person is accused of corruption, the right thing to do is to stop Gungubele, who is now looking like a hypocrite of note.

He was very vocal against the corruption allegations that hung over the head of the previous administration.

He incessantly called for former president Jacob Zuma to go due to corruption allegations.

Zuma did the right thing and resigned after the ANC’s 54th elective conference in Nasrec and is currently dealing with his court cases.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, he is holding on to the deputy ministry for dear life, going door- to-door to various media houses, who are serving as his reputation management specialists, giving him a platform to explain why he should not step aside, even though he is facing corruption allegations and is purported to be part of the rot that is plaguing the PIC.

This scenario shows that as a media house, Business Day is embedded in the interests of the PIC, which explains Carol Paton’s obsession with Independent Media.

The fact is that Independent Media is not asking for the removal of Gungubele. Paton is instead making excuses for him to stay.

What can then be deduced is that there are “holy cows” in South Africa's political landscape that are given leeway to continue occupying positions in office, even though they are facing corruption allegations.


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