Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Lesufi welcomes City Press retraction and apology

By Jonisayi Maromo Time of article published Apr 18, 2021

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Pretoria - Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi on Sunday welcomed the apology by City Press regarding an article previously published by the newspaper alleging that he had convened a “secret meeting” to discuss departmental tenders.

On Sunday, the newspaper apologised and retracted the allegation that the meeting in question was secret.

The publication also acknowledged that the community meeting attended by school governing body members, learner formations, business forums, school principals and community policing forum, was held in May 2020 not in February 2021, as had been erroneously reported.

“Whilst I acknowledge the damage done by the article, I also wish to reiterate my support for media freedom and independence. My reputation and standing was challenged. To all those who insulted and labelled me, I unreservedly forgive you,” said Lesufi.

“We condemn people who use the media for nefarious reasons. To those who believed in my innocence when my integrity and credibility was put into doubt, I remain deeply indebted to you. This unequivocal apology has laid this matter to rest. We can now focus on our core mandate of providing quality education in Gauteng.”

On Sunday, part of the City Press apology said: “City Press would like to apologise to Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi for an article published in City Press on April 4, 2021, under the headline: ’Lesufi's secret tender meeting’. City Press retracts the allegation that the meeting was secret...”

Earlier this month, after the publication of the article, Lesufi said the newspaper article alleging that he attempted to meddle in the department’s lucrative tenders following a “secret meeting” he attended in Tshwane was misleading.

At the time, City Press reported that Lesufi had been recorded in a meeting apparently promising to fix tender issues experienced by some people.

According to the news outlet, he told a group of people that if they wanted to be awarded tenders, they needed to talk to him and then apply via the correct channels for record purposes. Lesufi also reportedly said he would not assist “traitors”.

At the time, Lesufi’s spokesman Steve Mabona said the MEC attended the May 2020 meeting at the invitation of the South African National Civic Organisation and residents to address a community meeting after a school in Soshanguve went for months without electricity.

“Local contractors stopped the project to repair the electricity problem and demanded that they be appointed to carry out the work at the school. The same contractors further stopped Bidvest to clean schools around the area, which was a donation,” said Mabona.

“At the community meeting, attended by school governing bodies, learner formations, business forums, school principals and community formations such as CPFs [community policing forums], the MEC explained how contracts were advertised and adjudicated in government in general.”

Mabona said as part of his commitment to attend the issues raised in the meeting, Lesufi took attendees on a walk-about at the school to demonstrate the urgent need for repairs.

“Why would a walk-about be arranged if the meeting was “secret”? It was after this meeting that the electricity of the school was restored and the repairs were allowed to proceed. Based on the above, the allegation that this was a secret meeting is baseless and unfounded,” said Mabona.

“It is unfortunate that the recording that is circulated was seriously manipulated and tampered with as it deliberately excludes the beginning of the said meeting where the purpose of the session was explained in detail, the manipulated voice clip only contains areas where the MEC was responding to questions that were raised by members of the community.”

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