The Ombud found multiple instances of BM’s reporting representing serious breaches of sections 1.1, 1.2, 1.8 and 1.9 of the Press Code as contained in the BM’s apology. The Council raised particular concern with BM’s “consistent neglect either to obtain comment from a subject of critical reportage” or “to ask relevant questions about specific allegations”. These are failures in basic journalism and, in our view, impacted severely on the accuracy of the portrayal of the EPPF in BM’s articles.
The BM was also directed to publish the Fund’s limited reply of 600 words to these serious allegations. The Fund appreciates the opportunity to reply to these serious allegations as the BM’s repeated failure to seek the Fund’s reply resulted, in our view, in false, misleading, damaging and unfair reporting which tarnished the reputation of the Fund and individuals referred to in the articles. The Ombud has vindicated our complaints of unfairness.
The EPPF recognises and supports a free media and the critical role it plays in our society. Despite our transparent and detailed engagement with BM, the reporter’s conduct left us with no other choice than to seek redress from the Press Council.
The Fund is unable to reply in full to the serious allegations levelled against it in the six articles complained of in the words permitted. The Fund’s reply on key aspects of the BM’s reporting appears below:
- A series of articles earlier this year sought to repeatedly and falsely portray the EPPF as being poorly managed and not well-functioning. The tone of this coverage was sensationalist and alarmist, and the headlines which accompanied it were similarly irresponsible and untrue.
- The pieces headlined “Eskom is facing another demon in the dark – its R140 bn pension fund” and “Court documents suggest the Eskom Pension and Provident Fund is in crisis”, contain multiple inaccuracies. The new administration system was successfully implemented in April 2020, following a transparent procurement process, a fact that was not reported by BM. Pensioner payments have been made timeously since the implementation of the new system.
- Claims that EPPF Head of Operations Joey Sankar influenced procurement processes are patently false. The Fund has rigorous governance and procurement processes in place that are not controlled by an individual. Joey Sankar did not participate in the Procurement Committee which adjudicated this tender. The Fund investigates procurement irregularities should information at its disposal warrant an investigation.
- BM’s claim that EPPF CE Linda Mateza perjured herself in an affidavit regarding the appointment of service provider EBSphere is false. The false accusation of criminal conduct under circumstances where her comment was not sought by BM prior to publication is particularly serious. Ms Mateza confirmed in the referenced affidavit that the Fund had “appointed a new service provider” which was true. A letter of appointment was sent to EBSphere months before the affidavit was attested to by Ms Mateza.
- There are no facts to support the claim that Head of Legal, Thelma Melk, received any favourable treatment from former EPPF Chairman Mantuka Maisela.
We are aware of the alarm these reports caused amongst our members and feel vindicated that this careless reporting has been repudiated by the Ombud. The individuals concerned reserve their rights to defend their respective reputations.
The EPPF is committed to acting in the best interests of its members and pensioners and providing them with an industry-leading service. We remain focused on the Fund’s long-term financial sustainability.