Correction and Apology to Sibusiso Luthuli and the Mpande Property Fund
In March this year, Business Maverick published an article which inter alia claimed that the former CEO and principal officer of the Eskom Pension and Provident Fund (EPPF) Sbu Luthuli “was doing business with the investment arm of the fund, despite it being a clear conflict of interest and in contravention of the cooling-off period stipulated in the fund’s code of conduct”.
This “business” was reportedly done during his employ at the EPPF, or in the cooling-off period after he had left the fund.
Luthuli lodged a complaint with the Press Ombud, saying that this statement was false and defamatory – and that it has caused huge damage to his reputation.
Acting Assistant Press Ombud Johan Retief found that Luthuli’s business with the EPPF occurred 18 months after he had left the organisation and that the fund did not have a formal “cooling-off” period stipulation. For that reason, the statement that his conduct was a “clear conflict of interest” was unsubstantiated and unfair.
Luthuli also complained about the veracity of several other statements. The Ombud found most of these had also been unfair and unsubstantiated (see below).
We, therefore, apologise unreservedly to Luthuli and Mpande Property Fund Manager (Pty) Ltd (“Mpande”) for:
- creating the false, unfair and unsubstantiated impression that Luthuli had been doing business with EPPF while he was its CEO, or during the cooling-off period after he had left its employ;
- stating as fact that this had constituted a conflict of interest;
- stating that Mpande was in a process of deregistration; and
- not doing enough to obtain their comments prior to publication.
The Press Ombud also reprimanded us for inaccurately stating that Luthuli:
- had contravened EPPF’s code of conduct regarding a “cooling-off” period;
- had a vested interest in Trinitas Private Equity (“TPE”);
- was Mpande’s CEO since June 2018 (while he became the director in November 2018);
- was one of three directors at Mpande (as there were only two directors); and
- did not respond to “requests” (plural) to be interviewed.
An earlier version of the story claimed Luthuli was a director at TPE. In fact, the relationship is the other way around: a director of TPE is also a director in Mpande.
Business Maverick did make contact with Luthuli before publication, but the Press Ombud found we had erred in not presenting him with details of the allegations ultimately made in the story. The Press Ombud has instructed us to remove the story, which we have done.
We apologise that our reportage on this matter has unnecessarily tarnished Luthuli’s and Mpande’s reputation and dignity.
A subsequent story published once all the facts were known appears here.
Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding.