Johannesburg - Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Tuesday reprimanded the media for publishing the contents of the affidavit of former Bosasa chief operations officer-cum-whistleblower, Angelo Agrizzi, saying that there was "absolutely no public interest" in revealing the details that were soon going to be public anyway.
Sunday newspapers reported extensively on Agrizzi's affidavit which revealed that he would implicate high-ranking government officials in graft.
Among other allegations, Agrizzi says environmental affairs minister Nomvula Mokonyane received numerous payments of R50 000 per month from Bosasa from 2002 – when she was a member of the executive council for safety and security in Gauteng province - until Agrizzi left the company in 2016 for "political protection".
Zondo said that it was ironic that journalists and media houses wanted the truth to come out in a lawful manner about the allegations of State capture, yet they were quick to subvert the rule of law to serve their own interests by contravening the regulations of the Commission.
In a 20-minute rebuke, Zondo said he had the highest regard for some journalists and editors who conduct themselves with integrity, professionalism and respect, but there were some who chose not to act in accordance with the law.
"I do not know whether the journalists or editors who did so believe that it was in the public interest that they publish what Mr Agrizzi was to testify about ahead. I can see nothing that is in the public interest in the publication of what the witness is going to say in the few days when he is going to testify about and is going to be in the public domain."
This is a case where a journalist knows that this information is in the affidavit and will be testifying about it. So there is absolutely no public interest in supporting the decision to publish that information because that information will be in the public domain after the witness has testified."
It seems to me that it must be either because the newspaper wants to make money, or they just want to be the first ones to tell the public what the witness is going to say. They want a scoop. But there is absolutely no public interest. The nation must know that journalists who do that are not serving the public interest, they are serving their own interests."
Zondo said what the media had done by publishing the leaked affidavit was "wrong, unacceptable, and it undermines the work of this commission".
He urged the media to cooperate with the work the Commission is doing as it is a "national task", saying that the Commission's staff needed support as they were dedicated employees despite the insults they were allegedly subjected to by certain members of the media.
"I appeal to the media not to work in a manner that undermines the Commission, but work to assist us. We fully support the freedom of the media and we will continue to give full access to the media in terms of queries they might have but we ask the law to be respected," Zondo said.
Zondo also said that he would issue a press release later in the day updating the nation about the appointment of the acting secretary of the Commission. Agrizzi continues giving his testimony.
African News Agency (ANA)