Mantashe not off the hook over bribery claims
Johannesburg - The South African National Editors’ Forum has vowed not to let Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe off the hook as it seeks to have Parliament’s Ethics Committee force him to apologise for bribery claims made against two Sunday World journalists.
Sanef’s executive director, Kate Skinner, on Monday said the forum was waiting for Mantashe to issue an apology.
Last year Mantashe made the startling claims against two journalists of the Sunday tabloid, claiming he had given them R35 000 each to quash a story exposing his extramarital affair with a Pretoria woman named Lerato Makgatho.
But in a dramatic twist Mantashe made a quick U-turn. He claimed that despite actually making the claim against the journalists he had not made any payments to them.
Sanef wrote to Parliament’s ethics committee in November to call a hearing on Mantashe’s conduct, but to date there has been no hearing.
In December, Sunday World editor and publisher Makhudu Sefara said that he had his journalists undergo lie detector tests to determine whether the journalists had solicited money from Mantashe or his associates, whether they had made contact with Mantashe and his associates and whether they had directly or indirectly received money from Mantashe and his associates.
Sefara said that the reporters had passed the lie detector tests as Mantashe’s claims could not be verified.
Upon following up on the matter earlier this year, Skinner said that the committee had told Sanef they would not be able to deal with the matter immediately.
Skinner said the committee indicated it would “definitely look into the matter” after the State of the Nation Address and the Budget speech.
When contacted by The Star on Monday to find out whether the committee had announced a date for the hearing, Skinner said the committee had not communicated with them.
She said they would be approaching it in “the next day or two” over the matter. “We will definitely approach the Ethics Committee again in the next day or two. We are not letting him (Mantashe) get away with it.”
Political analyst Mighti Jamie said there was currently a credibility crisis for both journalists and politicians. Everyone involved in the journalistic space should go beyond the limit to ensure transparency was maintained, as there was a real concern around whether politicians were bribing journalists to get rid of stories or to get favourable stories.
“It puts a question mark over all the stories everyone reads in mainstream news publications, and working within the journalistic space we all have to be vigilant around the brand of journalism as it exists right now.”
Mantashe's spokesperson Natie Shabangu said the minister had been available to deal with the issue since last year. “Last year he volunteered to go to Sanef. He met with them at their offices and he made a commitment that he would appear at their commission that deals with media ethics. We heard Sanef wrote to Parliament and said we'll go the parliamentary route,” Shabangu said.
Parliament's spokesperson could not be reached for comment.