Jacques Pauw Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Investigative journalist Jacques Pauw has urged the Sunday Times to appear before the Zondo or Nugent commissions and for the embattled journalists at the centre of the editorial storm, to “come clean” and reveal their sources.

The Sunday Times on Sunday apologised for stories it had carried on the Cato Manor “death squad”, the SA Revenue Service (Sars) “rogue unit” and the Zimbabwean renditions. Editor Bongani Siqoko admitted that “we committed mistakes and allowed ourselves to be manipulated by those with ulterior motives”.

Siqoko said the paper would return all the awards and prize money presented to its reporters for the three stories. Stephan Hofstatter, a freelance journalist, and Mzilikazi wa Afrika were no longer employed by the paper, according to reports day. Pauw said that if Hofstatter and Wa Afrika were to have any future in journalism, they needed to come clean. “I think the only forum available at the moment is Zondo or Nugent,” he said.

The Zondo Commission of Inquiry is investigating state capture while the Nugent Commission is investigating tax administration and governance at Sars. “They have to come clean, otherwise they will not have a future in journalism. Journalists cannot reveal their sources, but there is a case to be made here.

“If you were used and abused by a source for a political end and the fact that the source fed them bulls**t, I don’t think that source needs any kind of protection or is entitled to any kind of protection. We know that the information came from crime intelligence sources, effectively pro (Richard) Mdluli forces that fed them with this information. I think they need to tell us now what happened and what the process is.”

Pauw said the reporters were definitely “played”. Former Hawks boss Major-General Johan Booysen yesterday described Siqoko as “a real editor, with a backbone”. 

“He inherited this mess and what he has done is absolutely courageous, as painful as it must have been for him. “The lesson for all journalists here is that a scoop and an award are not worth your credibility. You are dealing with serious issues that can affect the economy of the country, like the Sars issue has,” Booysen said.

“The policing issues led to the closure of Cato Manor, and this led to an increase in violent crime, including hijackings and cash-in-transit robberies.” Booysen said he would pursue his civil action with the state as he pursued the vindication of himself and his members.

“The case is still pending against us... We have applied to the high court and it is up to the judge to make a finding”. Booysen added he would be testifying at the Zondo Commission next month.

“The newspapers have come clean, the Hawks have appointed a new head and they still have to appoint a new head at the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority), but the cabal at the NPA need to be investigated for their role in state capture,” he said.

Welcoming the apology, Mahlatse Mahlase, chairperson of the SA National Editors’ Forum, said Siqoko had attempted to clean up a lot of past regrettable errors, from Sars to Cato Manor. “It has caused the entire industry to pause and look inward, and hopefully it will also lead to the strengthening of editorial policies,” she said. 

Mahlase added that some people would extend the Sunday Times being manipulated by those with ulterior motives to the entire media industry in the country. “This is a difficult time, with elections coming up, and media houses must review their systems. Stories must be interrogated and we must also interrogate the motives of those giving us the stories.”

Mahlase said the fallout at the Sunday Times must result in a conversation that all media houses must have in their newsrooms. Siqoko, in a front-page editorial of the paper yesterday, said they would return all the awards and prize money presented to its reporters. Ryland Fisher, chairperson of the judging panel for the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards, said they had had no contact with the Sunday Times.

Political Bureau