South Africa

Right of Reply: Daily Maverick should have requested comment – Gengezi Mgidlana

By Daily Maverick 21 December 2017

The Press Ombudsman Johan Retief in his ruling delivered on 9 December 2017 found that Daily Maverick and Marianne Merten published an article on 12 October 2017 of critical reportage to me without affording me an opportunity to state my views. This was an article that Merten wrote having only interviewed Ms Zelda Holtzman who had just been dismissed by Parliament. By GENGEZI MGIDLANA.

At the time, I was from special leave from 25 May 2017, at my own request, to allow a process that the Executive Authority had initiated to occur freely. During that period Holtzman had her last disciplinary hearing that considered the sanction against a guilty finding on some charges. The hearing was chaired by an independent person who recommended her dismissal. Parliament, in my absence, duly dismissed her.

Merten, in her article, decided to dedicate a fair amount of time on me – without giving me an opportunity to respond. The Press Ombudsman had this to say on the matter,

Mgidlana was indeed a subject of critical reportage in this article, given the potential harmful nature of the allegations made against him, and the fact that most of them were new – which is why Merten should have asked him … for comment”.

Retief observed that he did not know “why Merten chose not to give Mgidlana a right of reply to the new allegations levelled against him. I do not blame him (Mgidlana), though, for suggesting this was deliberate”. The Daily Maverick and Merten have been to this point before and I can confirm that on more than 14 occasions they’ve not requested my comments. So, it’s not a mistake, its deliberate.

She has previously regurgitated statements that she cannot substantiate. When they are put to scrutiny her reasons vary from grapevine, corridor talk, discussions with parliamentary staff (the union) and some MPs. It does not amount to the rigorous researched and scrutinised work from a “public interest” journalist that is aware of her responsibilities, the truth, accuracy, fairness and balanced reporting. Accordingly, such journalists must truly and ethically accept that they must provide the public with objective, accurate and balanced reporting that does not seek to promote one version of the narrative at the expense of the objectivity and the truth.

The fact of the matter is that Holtzman wrongly prefers to reference her tenure in Parliament to me, when she reports to two managers before me. She was charged accordingly by the responsible Deputy Secretary; she was afforded the necessary due process by Parliament, the CCMA and the Labour Court on the matters she wished to raise. Those tribunals did not sustain any of the allegations made. She is obviously aggrieved and has objectified me with that strife as the Head of the Administration.

Whilst empathetic to the Holtzman’s plight, I do not understand how any noteworthy journalist can take seriously baseless accusations – unless the truth does not matter. DM



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