Appeal Decision: Matshela Koko vs News24


Mon, Jan 24, 2022

BEFORE THE APPEALS PANEL OF THE PRESS COUNCIL OF SOUTH AFRICA

In the matter between:

Matshela Koko                                                                                  Applicant/Complainant

and

News24                                                                                                                Respondent

Matter No: 9322/10/2021

DECISION ON AN APPLICATION FOR LEAVE TO APPEAL

  1. Mr Matshela Koko (applicant/complainant) lodged a complaint with the Press Ombud in respect of an article that had been published by News24 (respondent) on 25 October 2021. The headline read: “Matshela Koko’s alleged cooking of Eskom’s books: 5 things you need to know”. The applicant argued that the article was in breach of clauses 1.1, 1.3 and 1.7 of the Press Code. It appeared the applicant was appointed Group Chief Executive Generation and Technology early 2016 and later Acting Group Chief Executive in December 2016 towards the end of that year. As confirmed by the Deputy Press Ombud in his Ruling of 10 December 2021 dismissing applicant’s complaint, the applicant’s complaint was based on the following statement by the respondent:

News24 found that an increase in planned maintenance in 2015 was not sustained during Koko’s tenure, which, in addition to damaging practices of running power generation units hard, led to a sharper than expected increase in unplanned breakdowns after his departure”. In refuting the above, the applicant attached page 130 of the Eskom Integrated Report of 31 March 2021, which had been audited by independent external auditors. The respondent stood its ground. The Deputy Press Ombud dismissed the applicant’s complaint in which the applicant had demanded a retraction and an apology. The applicant now seeks leave to appeal the Ruling. The respondent opposes the application. For the application to succeed, the applicant must show reasonable prospects of success on appeal.

  1. As the applicant indicates in his application, the above-mentioned part of the article is the basis of the complaint. He says respondent’s claim is not supported by the audited facts in the Eskom Integrated Report of 31 March 2021. He argues that as a matter of fact there was, contrary to the Deputy Ombud’s finding, an increase in the planned capability loss factor (PCLF) in the financial year 2016 and during his tenure in the capacity mentioned earlier; in this respect, he referred to the page 130 of the audited Eskom Integrated Report. For the purpose of this application, the point is this: at least to some significant extent, as to who is right depends on the interpretation of the information at hand, not least the Eskom Report. For the purpose of deciding on the application for leave to appeal, the test is whether there exist reasonable prospects that the Appeals Panel may interpret the information differently to the way the Deputy Ombud did. I am satisfied that such prospects exist, bearing in mind other considerations which is not appropriate at this stage to go into.
  2. For the reasons given above, the application for leave to appeal is hereby granted.

Dated this 22nd day of January 2022

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel