Western Cape Premier Helen Zille    Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/Independent Media
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/Independent Media

Reporter apologises over Zille 'mistake'

By Dougie Oakes, Group Political Editor Time of article published Mar 5, 2017

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In the early hours of March 3 our reporter, Tshego Lepule, read a report from another newspaper about events in the provincial legislature the day before, where Premier Helen Zille was taking questions from the ANC and other parties.

She noticed that the description of one particular response of the premier differed significantly from what she had written. 

She immediately went to her recorder and played and replayed Zille’s response to this particular question. The report had omitted three words in a quote that appeared in the article “Most murderers not white – Zille” (March 3).

And when she had done so, she contacted me and Japhet Ncube, editor of The Star, via e-mail.

This is what she said: “It is with regret that I bring to your attention a great error that I made in my copy last night.

“Having listened to my recording a number of times, I noticed that I left out a key word at the end of Premier Helen Zille’s quotes that changes my intro.

“The quote should read: ‘If we are to do a racial breakdown in terms of assaults and murders in terms of victims and perpetrators, I think you will find that a majority of murders and assaults in this province are not perpetrated by white people against black people.

“I regret having missed it and note that it changes my story significantly.

“The fact that these three words were slightly inaudible due to the howling in the house during proceedings is no excuse and I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

What happened was a mistake – a regrettable mistake – but it was in no way a deliberate act of omission by the reporter.

There was, moreover, no malice in the actions of the Cape Times in deciding to run the story purely on its merits.

In fact, the Cape Times has no connection with the reporter. Lepule works in Independent Media’s parliamentary team of reporters.

Independent Media strives for accuracy and fairness in all its reports.

When we are wrong, we will admit it – and apologise to anyone who has been wronged or disadvantaged. In this instance, the omission of three words has changed the story significantly.

We therefore apologise unreservedly to Premier Zille.

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