Coega Development Corporation vs. Daily Dispatch


Tue, Apr 4, 2017

Ruling by the Press Ombud

4 April 2017

This ruling is based on the written submissions of Mr Menzi Mbina, on behalf of Coega Development Corporation, and those of Sibusiso Ngalwa, editor-in-chief of the Daily Dispatch newspaper.

Coega is complaining about two articles in Daily Dispatch of 2 February 2017. The first was headlined Massive boost for region as millions flow to Elidz – Raft of special incentives expected to be implemented soon, the second, Jobs boost as project nets R800M – Exciting wave of investments just the start of even greater future for Elidz.

Complaint                                            

The company complains the statement that Coega IDZ was “designated” to get the contract was misleading, inaccurate and unfair, and caused the company commercial harm.

In particular, it says the word “designated” implied that there was something untoward regarding the awarding of the contract and that it sowed the seed that Coega’s behaviour in this deal was somehow untoward.

The text

The sentence in question read, “Last year, the government announced that the billion–rand OEM plant, designated for the ELIDZ, was going to the Coega IDZ in Nelson Mandela Bay…”

Informal meeting

I have held an informal meeting on March 22 with the parties in East London. Mike Loewe represented the newspaper, while Mbina and Dr. Ayanda Vilakazi appeared on behalf of Coega.

We achieved consensus, which resulted in the publication of the following text on page 1:

At a meeting of Coega and the Daily Dispatch on March 22, presided over by Press Ombud Johan Retief, it was agreed that the word "designated", used in a February 2 Daily Dispatch report headlined "Jobs boost as projects net R800m, exciting wave of investments just the start of even greater future for EL IDZ", was misleading.

The sentence in question read, “Last year, the government announced that the billion–rand OEM plant, designated for the ELIDZ, was going to the Coega IDZ in Nelson Mandela Bay…”

The word implied that there was something untoward regarding the awarding of the contract – while it was accepted by all parties at the meeting that it was not the intention of the reporter to sow the seed that Coega’s behaviour in this deal was somehow untoward.

Retief said the problem was that the word “designated” was presented as fact, whereas it was an opinion, ostensibly held by the business community in Buffalo City, that the ELIDZ was destined to receive the multi-billion BAIC OEM plant. Coega won the competition for the massive investment after a complex site assessment involving both zones.

This successfully concluded the case.

Johan Retief

Press Ombud