Parliaments ethics committee is sitting with more than 2 000 pages of evidence against Communication Minister Dina Pule as it prepares its investigation into her conduct. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi
Parliaments ethics committee is sitting with more than 2 000 pages of evidence against Communication Minister Dina Pule as it prepares its investigation into her conduct. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Pule blasts paper’s ‘smear campaign’

By Miranda Andrew Time of article published Apr 22, 2013

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 Johannesburg - A series of articles by The Sunday Times formed part of a highly-sophisticated smear and blackmail campaign against her, Communications Minister Dina Pule claimed on Monday.

“It is all about business and political interests related to a multi-billion ran set-top-box tender and related issues,” she told reporters in Johannesburg.

Set-top boxes are required for digital migration from analogue to digital TV broadcasting.

She said The Sunday Times's “handlers”, who were high profile business people and politicians, had tried to “coerce” her into a corner by threatening to make “injurious revelations or accusations against me”.

Their objective was to force her to make decisions in their favour, she claimed.

“When they realised that their threat of revealing accusations against me did not work, they then escalated their campaign with the hope that I will resign or that the president would fire me.”

Pule said she had no intention of resigning and remained “unshaken” by the articles about her.

She claimed the campaign began last June.

“The stakes are very high, and some unscrupulous individuals are so desperate to secure the tender they are willing to do anything, including using journalists to smear the minister,” said Pule.

“Shockingly, they found a willing partner in The Sunday Times. Their plan was simple, yet highly sophisticated in its implementation... in their fantasy world, they believed that I... have the power to decide who should be awarded the tender.

“It appears their history was that if they could get me to co-operate with them they will have a better chance of winning the tender.”

Pule detailed several stories written about her by the newspaper.

She said it had sought to project her as a corrupt minister who gave tenders to a boyfriend, meddled in tender processes, and interfered in the appointment of officials.

“They have not provided a shred of evidence that I have broken the law... every allegation seemed to centre on the alleged boyfriend.”

She said the alleged boyfriend Phosane Mngqibisa was known to her as a “comrade”.

The matter had been taken up with the Press Ombudsman, but no legal action or police charge had been registered.

Pule named several journalists involved in the campaign, including Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Rob Rose, and Stephan Hofstatter.

She said Wa Afrika was a journalist with a “highly questionable and colourful background”.

“He has a close association with business people and politicians who have bid for the set-top-box tender in the department.”

“You will recall that a few years ago, Wa Afrika was fired by the former Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya for conflict of interest because of his tendency to develop unsavoury ties with sources.”

Pule said that while Wa Afrika was out of work, he became involved in business ventures, including importing cheap cellphones from China.

The department oversees the regulation of the cellphone industry.

Pule said at the centre of the cellphone venture were prominent business people who had developed an “insatiable appetite” in the set-top-box tender.

After the newspaper published its first story about Pule, Wa Afrika's “associates” allegedly invited Pule to a meeting, during which Wa Afrika claimed to have information pointing to wrongdoing on Pule's part.

“He said he was willing to quash the information he had... on condition that I considered... proposals he made to me in front of his associates.”

These were “that I should provide incriminating information about President 1/8Jacob Zuma 3/8, and that I should give him another story about corruption, either in the department or the state-owned companies that report to me”.

Pule said she rejected all the proposals and later received a call from a close relative of Wa Afrika. She said the relative became desperate to meet with her and even went as far as “to propose love to me”.

“Of course, all of these proposals were rejected. I am now informed that Wa Afrika is claiming that I had an affair with his close relative.”

Wa Afrika told Cape Talk radio the minister was trying to “circumcise a mosquito”.

“She is dreaming about all of this. I personally don't have any interest in the cellphone business at all,” he told the broadcaster.

“I deny (everything). She must produce any document or name of the company that I am involved in.”

Wa Afrika said he received information in about September that there was something going on between Pule and his brother.

“I confronted my brother, he admitted it. I phoned my other brother to set up a family meeting.”

He said the family agreed that as long as the brother was seeing Pule, Wa Afrika should not have contact with him.

“Since that day, my brother has never called me.... He (the brother) said it's true and I said to him, did you anyhow benefit from this relationship, financial or otherwise? And he said no.”

Wa Afrika said there was no campaign against Pule, and that “it's got nothing to do with Stephan, nothing to do with Rob Rose”.

Sunday Times editor Phylicia Oppelt said in a text message that she would issue a statement later. - Sapa

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