File picture: NS Newsflash, Flickr.com

Cape Town - Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko admitted on Sunday that they "allowed ourselves to be manipulated by those with ulterior motives" when reporting on the Cato Manor "death squad", Sars "rogue unit" and Zimbabwean renditions stories.

"... (We) admit here today that something went wrong in the process of gathering the information and reporting the Cato Manor, Sars and Zimbabwean renditions stories. This is after we engaged constructively with all key parties involved in the stories.

"What is clear is that we committed mistakes and allowed ourselves to be manipulated by those with ulterior motives," Siqoko said in a column on Sunday.

The apology comes after forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan earlier this week piled pressure on Tiso Blackstar, which he believes helped ensure state capture.

O'Sullivan demanded the Sunday Times provide an unequivocal retraction of all three "fake news stories" and an admission that its journalists and editorial team were captured and played a significant role in state capture.

“Without the Sunday Times, state capture would not have been possible. Fake news stories with the threads “SARS rogue unit” as well as “Zimbabwe renditions” and “Cato Manor death squad”, were “planted” by Richard Mduli’s accomplices, using two chequebook journalists, that are still on the payroll of Tiso Blackstar, having been discreetly moved within the corporate mist.

“The Sunday Times fake news stories were nothing more than a carefully orchestrated plot to capture the criminal justice system.

“That one man could be actively engaged in State Capture, then seek to profit from it by writing a book titled ‘Licence to Loot’, is just unbelievable,” said O’Sullivan. 

Licence to Loot is written by Stephan Hofstatter, who was part of the team that published numerous stories about the Sars rogue unit".

On Sunday Siqoko said: "While we were interrogating, investigating and reporting these stories, there was clearly a parallel political project aimed at undermining our democratic values and destroying state institutions, and removing individuals who were seen as obstacles to this project. We admit that our stories may have been used for this purpose. It is this project that also tarnished our reports on Sars.

"There was ferocious infighting within state institutions, and warring factions were prepared to use state organs to settle scores. In the process, villains became heroes, and heroes fell as the tectonic loyalty plates shifted violently, as we have seen in the case of former Hawks head Anwa Dramat and Gen Shadrack Sibiya of the Gauteng Hawks, and Sars officials who became targets of this political project.

"That we allowed our stories to be abused for this purpose, we apologise," Siqoko said.