Appeal Decision: Mabuyane Lubabalo vs Sunday Times

Tue, Jun 9, 2020


In the matter of

MABUYANE LUBABALO                                                                                 APPLICANT


THE SUNDAY TIMES                                                                                  RESPONDENT

MATTER NO: 4405/05/2019


  1. This is an application by Mr Lubabalo Mabuyane (“applicant”) for leave to appeal the Ruling of the Press Ombud dated 20 February 2020. The Ruling was on a complaint lodged by the spokesperson for the applicant against the story published by the Sunday Times (“respondent”) on 19 May 2019, with the headline “Upgrade scandal hits Mabuyane”. The applicant is the current Premier of the Eastern Cape Province. The substance of the story was about allegations of corruption in the province in relation to certain municipalities. The gist of the complaint was that the story suggested some impropriety on the part of the applicant; it claimed that several articles of the Press Code were breached, resulting in damage to the reputation of the applicant. There was also a complaint about the satire in the “Hogarth” column. There was, furthermore, a complaint that the journalist was conflicted and could therefore not have been fair. The respondent contested all the complaints.
  2. In her Ruling, the Ombud dismissed all the complaints but found a breach of article 1.3 of the Code, and imposed a sanction in the form of an apology. The applicant is not happy and wants leave to appeal.
  3. The problem for the applicant is that the application for leave to appeal was filed out of time; this is common cause. In terms of the Code, a satisfactory explanation must be given before condonation for the late filing of the application may be granted. The applicant has not provided such an explanation. The most the applicant says is that “we were busy with pressing matters of the provincial government, thus we were unable to submit the application on time.” It must be accepted that they would be busy, but details must be given with reference to the time frames, to show that there was no opening. The problem is that all people are busy; it would therefore be a problem if everybody were to simply say “we were busy”. Nobody would keep to time and the whole process would be crippled.
  4. In the circumstances, the following Order is made: The application for the condonation of the late filing of the application for leave to appeals is not granted; the application is therefore dismissed.

Dated this 9th day of June 2020

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel