NEWS & ANALYSIS

An ugly and malicious smear - Phillip Dexter

COPE's head of communications replies to a Sunday World report

Response to Sunday World article published on 13 February 2011

Over the past few months, there has been a concerted smear campaign conducted against me by certain members of a minority faction in COPE, working in cahoots with someone formerly intimately involved with me in a relationship. The aim of such slander is simple - to focus media attention away from the continuing exposure of Mbhazima Shilowa's political bankruptcy, financial mismanagement and dishonesty by trying to drag my name and reputation, and by proxy, that of President Mosiuoa Lekota's through the mud. There is also an attempt to influence matters pertaining to the care and custody of my daughter, through collaborating with these unsavoury political characters.

I have thus far chosen not to respond to the gutter politics of these Shilowa supporters or this person, choosing instead to concentrate on the work of rooting out corruption in COPE and to building a stable home life for my children and I, but as such salacious innuendo has begun to find a measure of traction in the tabloid press, it is appropriate that I respond to this fiction-mongering.

The article in The Sunday World (13 February 2011) detailing the posting on Facebook of so-called confidential information about my personal and financial maters is an inaccurate and misleading one (see report). The journalist that interviewed me did not even have the decency to print my responses to these baseless allegations. They are as follows;

1. The financial statements posted are of my credit card and bank account. The intention was to depict me as being broke. I am a public figure and therefore while no aspect of my financial dealings should not be open to scrutiny, there are proper channels to do this and the fact that someone has gone to the trouble of fraudulently getting access to my private financial information is of concern to me. It speaks to the weakness of the protection of private information by the banks and financial institutions. The usual strategy of those who seek to discredit me is to try to portray me as a multi-millionaire who has prospered through ill-gotten gains. I am at a loss as to why whoever pasted this on Facebook thinks my financial affairs should in any way be embarrassing to me. In any case, many South Africans are broke, owe banks money and live on credit. If I were broke, owed the bank money or lived on credit, why would I be embarrassed by this?

2. The domestic abuse allegations made by my ex-partner in 2005 (we were never married) relate to an incident in which she alleged that I broke a window at her home. An independent witness to these events gave an affidavit that this was not the case. The other allegations she made were without any basis in truth or fact and were made years after we separated, which was in 2000. No protection order was granted in this case and the allegations were dismissed by the magistrate.

3. The allegations made by my ex-wife in 2010 were malicious in the extreme. I actually obtained an interim order against her when she assaulted me in June 2010 in front of my children - not the other way around as the Sunday World reports. Once again, witnesses to this assault signed sworn affidavits and no protection order was granted. I agreed to make representations for the criminal charges against my ex-wife to be dropped and they were. Incidentally, she copied, almost verbatim, the claims made by my ex-partner in her protection order application, presumably to try to create the impression of a pattern of behaviour. These allegations were also made years after the alleged assault took place, in the context of an acrimonious divorce during which various attempts were made to extort money from me with the threat that if I did not pay up, these allegations would be made public. Presumably this threat has now been carried out. I have nothing to hide with regard to my personal conduct in terms of these allegations, so once again, I am not embarrassed by these 'revelations'.

These are clearly malicious attempts to smear my good name, carried out by political opponents who, when they cannot win arguments by convincing other people, resort to these sorts of personal attacks. It is one of the unfortunate features of our very important domestic violence prevention legislation that allegations made in protection order applications are often wrongly treated as proven fact. As in my two experiences, this is not always the case and many a good persons reputation has been harmed by people who opportunistically use such legislation to gain financial or personal advantage, particularly in divorce cases. It is this type of behaviour, where parties fabricate allegations, that undermine this type of essential legislation.

It is one of the features of public media forms such as Facebook and Twitter that information can be spread rapidly and without censorship. I do not believe in censorship. However, I expect journalists to try to be objective. In this case the slant in this story is such that it creates the impression that there is some basis for these allegations and that they were proven in court. This is not the case. I trust that the Newspaper will correct this biased reporting and give the correction the same space as the article in question.

Statement issued by Phillip Dexter, COPE Head of Communications, February 21 2011

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