Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) is piling pressure on Gwede Mantashe to tell the truth under oath about which version of his two statements is true on the alleged R70 000 bribe he paid to two Sunday World newspaper journalists to bury a story about his alleged infidelity.

Hitting back at the minister of natural resources and energy, the forum asked why he made two contradictory statements on the matter. In a version published by the newspaper on Sunday, Mantashe allegedly claimed that he paid the bribe.

However, when pushed to name the two journalists, Mantashe on Tuesday morning said “none of the sort occurred.” He added that even the newspaper did not verify the allegations before publishing them. 

Unfazed by the spectacular backtracking, Sanef executive director Kate Skinner said it is unacceptable that any South African, and especially a sitting cabinet minister would allegedly bribe journalists to quash a story.

“Today a new version of the story has been published where you deny the bribery allegations. We eagerly await for the truth to emerge and Sanef believes that it is imperative that you verify – under oath - which version of events is, in fact, correct and why you have made two contradictory statements,” Skinner said in the open letter written to Mantashe.

Skinner added that allegations of bribing journalists are a blight on the media industry and cause irreparable damage to the fight for media freedom. It is therefore important that this issue is swiftly and decisively dealt with, she said.

“Minister - given the seriousness of the matter, Sanef will be writing a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa to express our deep concern about the claims against you. Furthermore, Sanef will be writing a letter to retired Judge Kathleen Satchwell, who is chairing our independent Inquiry into Media Ethics and Credibility, asking her to investigate this further.” 

After Mantashe’s rebuttal of the allegations, the editor of the Sunday World newspaper, Makhudu Sefara, said they stand by their story and dared Mantashe to sue them if he claims that they are lying.

"We believe that we captured Mr Mantashe factually and if he's changing his story, I'm not quite certain why that is so, but one thing I can say for sure is there is no apology we are making. He didn't demand an apology. 

"My view is because we captured him correctly, if he feels that we incriminated him or we linked him to things that incriminate him that he's not connected to at all, he is at liberty to take the Sunday World to court and as the editor, I dare him publicly and say 'Mr Mantashe, you must sue us if you believe truly that we erred in any way in the reporting that we did'," Sefara said in a statement.

Political Bureau