Baleka Mbete submits complaint against M&G - ANC

Party says national chairperson has now approached press ombudsman over Gold Fields 'bribe' story


The National Chairperson of the African National Congress, Comrade Baleka Mbete submitted a complaint to the Press Ombudsman this week emanating from malicious reporting and headlines published by the Mail & Guardian newspaper about her on the 6th and 13th September. The National Chairperson approaches the Press Ombudsman following an intervention by the African National Congress requesting the Mail & Guardian to retract what were clearly defamatory statements made about her; a request that fell on deaf and obstinate ears.

The complaint to the Press Ombudsman is based on a headline, "*Gold Fields bribed ANC Chair*" published 6th September which presents as fact that the National Chair has committed a crime - bribery - based on unsubstantiated and contradictory allegations. The National Chairperson has reiterated that she has never solicited nor received a bribe from Gold Fields, from anyone associated to Gold Fields or the Black Economic Empowerment transaction in question. The headline is deliberately crafted to be misleading, defamatory and unfair. The story that accompanies the headline provides no proof or evidence of this so-called bribe nor does it substantiate the very damaging aspersions it casts on the National Chairperson in her capacity as an ordinary citizen and as a leader of the African National Congress.

The complaint is further based on the story Mail & Guardian published on the 13th September 2013 entitled "*Mbete looks out for Number One*". This story is a spirited attempt to prove and justify the earlier unsubstantiated claims that the National Chairperson was bribed in order to influence the BEE deal. The Mail & Guardian does this by once again seeking to discredit the National Chairperson of the organisation by claiming that " *she puts her political progress before principle*". The story is a collection of factual inaccuracies, innuendos and suppositions brought together with the sole intention to defame the National Chairperson and the standing she enjoys from her organisation and the people of South Africa.

Amongst others, the Mail & Guardian claims that "*Mbete herself (was) accused of having exploited state funds, although she reportedly paid back her share"* on the so-called Travelgate scandal. This is an outright lie. The National Chairperson was not the subject of an investigation into the misuse of travel vouchers in Parliament. The paper also claims that the National Chairperson was "*revealed to have received an illegal driver's licence*", an allegation that was tested and settled by the Moldenhauer Commission whose report recorded no adverse findings against Comrade Baleka Mbete.

This commitment to tarnishing the image of the ANC and its leadership at all costs leads to shoddy and gutter journalism that betrays the noble profession of journalism. An example of this unfair journalism is contained in the finding by the Press Ombudsman on its allegations of bribery against Comrade Tony Yengeni. It is unfortunate that the Mail & Guardian is unable to learn from its own mistakes.

The African National Congress supports the National Chairperson's assertion that the Mail & Guardian has deliberately sought to distort and misrepresent information with the intention of defaming and discrediting the National Chairperson and by necessary implication, the African National Congress.  We share her considered view that this is a politically motivated campaign being waged by the Mail & Guardian, intentionally or otherwise, with the sole intention to tarnish the image of the ANC and its leaders as we approach the General Elections in 2014. It is this type of biased and unfair reporting gives credence to a notion that is held by many South Africans that the Mail & Guardian is oppositionist in its reporting. The ANC cannot rest until the origins of this politically motivated oppositionist stance and intent are exposed.

Statement issued by Jackson Mthembu, ANC national spokesperson, September 20 2013

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