Sunday Times trying to demonise Dina Pule - DoC

Dept says newspaper's allegations against minister malicious and unsubstantiated

Statement on the Sunday Times allegations contained in the edition of 24 March 2013

The Department of Communications is astounded by the extraordinary attack and persistent smear campaign being waged by the Sunday Times against Minister Dina Pule (see here).

The Department is of the view that the Sunday Times is guilty of breaching the Press Code and must apologise to the Minister.

The Minister intends to approach the Press Ombudsman as the Sunday Times has consistently breached the Press Code by running what is clearly a politically motivated smear campaign against the Minister.

For more than nine months now, the Sunday Times has been running a series of fabricated stories with the clear intention to tarnish the reputation of Minister Pule.

The articles have defamed the good name of Minister Pule and were clearly designed to violate her dignity. The Minister reserves her right to take further legal action in this regard.

The random use by Sunday Times of unnamed "sources", without any attempt to state their credibility and especially their independence, amounted to a serious breach of the Press Code.

No shred of evidence has been presented by the Sunday Times against Minister Pule since the smear campaign began nine months ago.

What the Sunday Times has done is to elevate allegations and opinion as fact, which was misleading to readers.

Like the others before it, the latest Sunday Times article headlined "Fire her now, Mr President" is littered with unverified, inaccurate, incorrect and unsupported allegations.

The malicious suggestion made by the Sunday Times that the Minister has ceded control of her portfolio to person outside the department is a serious insult.

The Sunday Times' reckless Editors have not provided any evidence to support this serious allegation which has been presented as a fact.

For the record, the Minister remains in charge of the Department and is discharging her responsibilities in terms of the Constitution.

Minister Pule is not responsible for administrative processes in the Department, which is the responsibility of the Accounting Officer.

The headline "Fire her now, Mr President" in this latest story is a serious indictment for a newspaper which prides itself as an independent source of journalism.

There is no doubt that the Editors at the Sunday Times have become personally involved in the political smear campaign against Minister Pule. They have taken a view and are actively working to support it despite lack of evidence to support their claims.

The latest article demonstrates the real intention of the Sunday Times. The intention is not to inform the public but to demonize Minister Pule and find her guilty in the court of public opinion. And having done this, ask for her removal from office.

It is an extraordinary act for a newspaper to take such a public stance based on unverified allegations. All that is left is for the newspaper to tell us is on who's behalf are they running the campaign against Minister Pule.

The newspaper has already alleged that former ICT Indaba spokesperson claimed that Minister Pule received a pair of shoes as a gift that was bought in Barcelona. A week later, the same newspaper claimed that it was not the spokesperson who made the claim, but it was Carol Bouwer.

In the same story the newspaper swiftly reported that Ms Bouwer had fired the spokesperson that same week. It is a mute point that the spokesperson had publicly challenged the Sunday Times to produce evidence in which he made the claim.

In the latest article, the Sunday Times continues to make claims that are unsubstantiated. They fail to demonstrate how Minister Pule's decisions are influenced by people who are not working in the Department of Communications.

The Sunday Times, for an example, did ask the Department questions about the circumstances surrounding the Minister's involvement in the appointment of Ms Gugu Duda.

The Department gave a detailed account of the Minister's involvement, which is in line with the regulations that govern the relationship between the Minister and the SABC Board in relation to the appointments of executives at the SABC.

This detailed explanation does not appear in today's story. There isn't even a reference to it. This suggests the Sunday Times is not prepared to entertain facts that stand in the way of their manufactured story.

For the record, these regulations provide for the SABC Board to seek the Minister's concurance in the appointment of the SABC executives.

Accordingly, the Minister only got involved in the process after the SABC board had completed the search and interviews for suitable candidates.

At the time the SABC started the process to search for executives, Minister Pule was a Deputy Minister in the Presidency.

Ms Lulama Mkhobo is a broadcasting industry veteran who was once considered for the SABC CEO position years before. Her name was one of the names that were forwarded to a former Minister of Communications by a previous SABC Board.

Minister Pule considered Ms Mokhobo's experience and ability to do the job. She did not ask for a list of her relatives.

Similarly, the Minister considered Ms Gugu Duda's experience and ability to execute the SABC CFO job. After these key considerations, she then applied her mind on the gender representation of the SABC executive team.

The Sunday Times started by alleging that Minister Pule as a corrupt person who meddles in the procurement. Now they claim nepotism on her part. In both instances they do not provide any evidence.

All of these desperate attempts to unseat Minister Pule have not distracted her from delivering on her responsibility of ensuring that all South Africans have access to world class ICT Infrastructure, policies, broadcasting signal and post offices. She takes this responsibility very seriously and she'll continue to deliver on it without fear of taking decisions that might upset some people.

At the moment, she is focused on returning the SABC to normalcy as soon as possible. To do this she engaged the outgone chair and deputy soon after they resigned to understand their reasons for leaving.

Before then, she wrote to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications to ask them to assess the effectiveness of the outgone board. These are the only tools that she has to deal with the SABC as prescribed by the Broadcasting Act of South Africa.

Minister Pule has also outlined the work and the output that she expects from the ICT Policy Review Panel. This is the Panel that is tasked with helping her modernise and overhaul the country's ICT policies to help build an inclusive society and create jobs.

She has overseen the negotiations with the free to air broadcasters and industry regulator Icasa to find an amicable solution to the challenge that is holding up the rollout of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT). The broadcasters are expected to inform the Department of their decision within a month, paving the way for the manufacturing of the decoders and the commercial launch of DTT. The decision to negotiate with the free to air broadcasters is key in moving the DTT project in the country forward.

Parallel to this, she has ensured that Sentech rolls out the digital broadcasting signal to 74% of South Africans. Plans are afoot to ensure that every South African where ever they live, will have access to the signal by December 2013.

It is important to note that the Minister did not publicly call for the board to go. She did, however, ask Parliament, the authority that interviews the SABC Board members, to look into the effectiveness of the Board.

Minister Pule can't be expected to account for the actions of private individuals, especially those who are not employed by the Department of Communications.

Statement issued by Siya Qoza, Department of Communications, March 24 2013

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