JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe on Monday denied paying hush money to journalists over a story about an alleged extra-marital relationship and infidelity. Is South Africa’s journalism sphere inundated with brown envelope journalism, which is completely counter to journalism ethics?
Many folks spent Sunday chewing their nails to the bone, willing the Springboks over the line against Wales at the Rugby World Cup. Gwede Mantashe had a very different reason to be nervous.
The Sunday World disclosed the story about an allegedly-steamy relationship the ANC minister was having with a student, Lerato Habiba Makgatho,26. The South African newspaper reported last weekend that Mantashe paid the journalists R70,000 in exchange for not publishing a story about his alleged love triangle involving a young woman, also stated that she was engaged in sexual relations with Tito Mboweni.
In a statement, the minister’s office said the claims made were never verified before the story being published and said he believed in upholding media integrity and freedom.
The details are as salacious as they come. The 26-year-old described the veteran politician as “a tiger in bed”.
That's why the rains are trolling us. pic.twitter.com/Vbz18rlMtt
— Mathanda (@MathandaNcube) October 27, 2019
However, it is Gwede Mantashe who is feeling the wrath on Monday morning. The publication had also detailed how the Energy supremo went to extreme lengths to block the story from going to print, including a hefty bribe and a frank admission of trying to influence two journalists behind the explosive article.
Sanef’s open letter to Minister Gwede Mantashe on Journos Bribery Claims :
SANEF’s Open Letter to Minister Gwede Mantashe on Journalist Bribery Claims … pic.twitter.com/nFqfldomDT
— SANEF (@SAEditorsForum) October 29, 2019
This unscrupulous attempt to silence the media has caught the attention of the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef). They reacted with rage when they learned of Mantashe’s attempted “hush payments”, understood to be worth R70 000 in exchange for the destruction of evidence relating to the story.
“Sanef is shocked to hear of the Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs, Gwede Mantashe’s brazen alleged admission that he paid journalists to “bury” a story about his relationship with a student. Mantashe paid the journalists R70 000 to “destroy evidence” backing the story. Mantashe has not revealed their names.”
“Sanef believes that ‘brown envelope’ journalism is completely counter to journalism ethics. We champion ethical journalism. We believe that if anyone has any evidence of unethical journalism – including the very serious breach of accepting funds for journalism – they should go to the Press Council.”
Sanef statement on Gwede Mantashe
It comes at the worst possible time for Cyril Ramaphosa: He reiterated his claims that ANC members will no longer be able to get away with “wrongdoing” in the party on Sunday. Mantashe’s bribe crosses a red line and attempts to capture the media are a terrible look for a government that was elected on an anti-corruption ticket.
It remains to be seen if Mantashe will face discipline for wrongdoing.
Nene was fired as finance minister shortly after giving a round of explosive testimony to the State Capture Inquiry in October 2018. He admitted that his son had benefited from his role in the PIC. In comparison, Mantashe has already admitted his guilt in this matter – but that might not be enough to save his bacon.
The group are now chasing accountability, and they have vowed to get to the bottom of this murky swamp. In a statement shared on Sunday, Sanef said they would undertake the following actions:
This breach of the ethical code could well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back: Sanef has also moved to establish an independent Inquiry into “Media Credibility and Ethics”, chaired by retired Judge Kathleen Satchwell. They are encouraging all South Africans to call out corruption in the media, as and when they see it.