Luther Lebelo vs City Press


Mon, Nov 21, 2022

17 November 2022

Finding: Complaint 9486

Date of publication: 30 January 2022

Headline: Mkhwebane uses Moyane’s ‘hitman’

Author: Norman Masungwini

Particulars

This finding is based on a written complaint by Mr Luther Lebelo, a written response on behalf of City Press by its Deputy Editor Mr Rapule Tabane and a further written response by Mr Lebelo.

Complaint

The complainant submits that the article transgresses Clauses 1.1, 1.2, 1.8 and 3.3 of the Press Code:

“The media shall:

“1.1 take care to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly;

“1.2 present news in context and in a balanced manner, without any intentional or negligent departure from the facts whether by distortion, exaggeration or misrepresentation, material omissions, or summarization;…

“1.8 seek, if practicable, the views of the subject of critical reportage in advance of publication, except when they might be prevented from reporting, or evidence destroyed, or sources intimidated. Such a subject should be afforded reasonable time to respond; if unable to obtain comment, this shall be stated;… ”

3. The media shall:

“3.3 exercise care and consideration in matters involving dignity and reputation, which may be overridden only if it is in the public interest and if:

“3.3.1. the facts reported are true or substantially true; or

“3.3.2. the reportage amounts to protected comment based on facts that are adequately referred to and that are either true or reasonably true; or

“3.3.3. the reportage amounts to a fair and accurate report of court proceedings, Parliamentary proceedings or the proceedings of any quasi-judicial tribunal or forum; or

“3.3.4. it was reasonable for the information to be communicated because it was prepared in accordance with acceptable principles of journalistic conduct; or

“3.3.5. the content was, or formed part of, an accurate and impartial account of a dispute to which the complainant was a party;…”

In view of the complainant’s objection to the use of the word “hitman” in the body of the article, I have added Clause 10.1 of the Press Code to his list of complaints:

“10.1 Headlines … shall not mislead the public and shall give a reasonable reflection of the contents of the report … in question …”

1. Summary of article

1.1. According to the City Press article, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane instructed Luther Lebelo to “monitor” the work of two senior investigators, Ponatshego Mogaladi and Lesedi Sekele, after she lost trust in them.

1.1.1. The article stated that Lebelo, who was appointed as Mkhwebane’s chief of staff in December 2021, was cited in both the Nugent commission into the SA Revenue Service (SARS) and the Zondo commission into state capture as a “hitman” for then tax commissioner Tom Moyane.

1.1.2. The article further reported that Lebelo “is said to have been instrumental in the side-lining of senior staff who were key to the functioning of Sars, a process that enabled the capture of the institution”.

1.2. According to the article, the Public Protector fell out with Mogaladi and Sekele last year after she accused them of gross negligence and unprofessional conduct.

1.2.1. The article further claimed that Mkhwebane took Mogaladi and Sekele to a disciplinary hearing and subsequently dismissed them, despite a recommendation by the disciplinary hearing chairperson to suspend them without pay and give them final written warnings.

1.2.2. Sekele and Mogaladi were reinstated after they challenged their dismissal in the labour court.

1.2.3. Judge Edwin Tlhotlhalemaje reportedly ruled in May 2021 that Mkhwebane had altered the disciplinary outcome by dismissing them instead of suspending them, and ruled that she should implement the chairperson’s recommendations.

1.2.4. Mkhwebane applied for a review of this order in July 2021, and argued that the employment relationship between her and the two investigators had irretrievably broken down in light of the serious consequences of their misconduct.

1.2.5. She further argued that, on the basis of the evidence before the chairperson, his decision was “irrational and unreasonable”.

1.3. While waiting for the review application to be finalised, the Public Protector reportedly instructed Lebelo and the acting chief operating officer, Lethabo Mamabolo, to check all Mogaladi and Sekele’s work before it was submitted to her.

1.3.1. She stated in her replying affidavit that this was an interim measure, and that it was introduced in order to ensure that her office was not brought into “further disrepute” by the conduct of the two investigators.

1.3.2. However, according to insiders at the Public Protector’s office, her actions were irregular in that “the human resource officials cannot deal with the merits of the investigations”, but only with its administrative aspects.

1.4. Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe told City Press that Mkhwebane was not in a position to discuss the merits of the case as the matter was pending in court.

1.4.1. He further denied that Mogaladi and Sekele were dismissed at any point: “What is wrongfully referred [to] as their dismissal was, in fact, when the office [of the Public Protector] presented them with an opportunity to provide reasons why a harsher sanction should not be taken against them after a disciplinary hearing found them guilty. They then approached the courts.”

2. Arguments

Luther Lebelo

2.1. Firstly, the complainant objects to being labelled as then SARS commissioner Tom Moyane’s “hitman”, and regards this description as disparaging and defamatory – “as if I am [a] non thinking tool”.

2.1.1. He submits that there is no basis to apply this label to him and dismisses as false the claim that either the Nugent Commission or the Zondo Commission cited him as a “hitman” for Moyane (in breach of Clause 1.1 of the Press Code).

2.1.2. He emphasises that no such finding was made against him by either commission of enquiry and adds that the “mentioning of my labelling took place in the Sars Commission, as a complaint and an appeal”.

2.2. Secondly, the complainant suggests that the respondent intended to cause him harm and damage his reputation by using this label (in breach of Clause 3.3 of the Press Code).

2.3. Thirdly, the complainant states that City Press failed to grant him a right of reply as required by the Press Code (in breach of Clause 1.8 of the Press Code).

2.4. Fourthly, the complainant submits that the article relies on unsubstantiated allegations presented before the Nugent Commission and that it does not state upfront that such claims were not confirmed in its findings.

2.4.1. He argues that this leaves the reader with the impression that these claims were findings and is in contravention of the Press Code (in other words, he argues that the newspaper misrepresented or omitted certain facts, in breach of Clause 1.2).

2.5. In conclusion, the complainant states that the article has prejudiced him in the extreme, and that the only way to remedy this is through “a number of measures including retractions, corrections and apologies”.

2.5.1. In support of this claim, he cites Clause 1.10 of the Press Code, which obliges the media to “make amends for presenting inaccurate information or comment by publishing promptly and with appropriate prominence a retraction, correction, explanation or an apology on every platform where the original content was published, such as the member’s website, social media accounts or any other online platform; and ensure that every journalist or freelancer employed by them who shared content on their personal social media accounts also shares any retraction, correction, explanation or apology relating to that content on their personal social media accounts” (complainant’s emphasis).

2.5.2. In addition, he cites Clause 1.11, which compels the media to “prominently indicate when content that was published online has been amended or an apology or retraction published. The original content may continue to remain online but a link to the amendment, retraction or apology must be included in every version of the content which remains available online” (complainant’s emphasis).

2.5.3. Lastly, he wants City Press to retract its labelling of him as a “SARS or Moyane Hitman” and to apologise for this in line with Clause 1.10 of the Press Code.

City Press

2.6. In response to the complainant’s objection to being labelled as Moyane’s “hitman”, the respondent submits that this referred to his work as an enforcer for the then head of SARS, “in particular to using his position as the human resource manager to get rid of people that Moyane did not want in the institution”.

2.6.1. The newspaper argues that it could have similarly described him as Moyane’s “right hand man”, but suggests that this probably does not fully convey the connotations associated with what it regards as the destructive work he carried out for Moyane.

2.6.2. It adds that it is noteworthy that the complainant does not dispute this assertion about his work, but only complains about the use of the word “hitman”.

2.6.3. The newspaper refers to the following paragraph in the article as an example: “Lebelo was known for being the enforcer for former Sars boss Moyane. While at Sars, he was instrumental in the dismissal and resignations of experienced staff members at the tax authority while he headed the human resources.”

2.6.4. It submits that this paragraph captures why the complainant is referred to as Moyane’s hitman – “a person who does work on behalf of someone else, and particularly work that those affected by it experience … as reprehensible and destructive to their future”.

2.6.5. City Press therefore contends that it is fair to have the grammatical latitude to use a word that captures “the ugly work he executed”, and submits that the Nugent Commission provides details that explain why this work was harmful to SARS and its staff.

2.6.6. The newspaper further argues that the word “hitman” cannot be defamatory because this can only be the case if the word was understood to mean that the complainant kills people, which it says was obviously not the intention.

2.6.7. It adds that, if the complainant finds the use of the word disparaging in relation to him, the newspaper believes that this is fair comment on the kind of activities that he performed at SARS.

2.7. The respondent further argues that the complainant was repeatedly cited in the Nugent Commission’s report and states that, in its understanding, “to be cited means to be ‘referred to’ and not “to be convicted of”, which is what he appears to take exception to”.

2.7.1. In support of this argument, the respondent refers, inter alia, to my statement in Luther Lebelo vs News24 that “by implication, the Nugent Commission included the complainant in certain events that transpired during Moyane’s tenure as SARS Commissioner”.[1]

2.8. The respondent goes on to acknowledge that the complainant was not cited by name in the Zondo Commission’s report. However, it argues that Moyane – “on whose behalf Luther Lebelo acted” – was cited.

2.8.1. It further submits that the entire management team that Moyane put in place was found to have played a role in the destruction of what it describes as a previously functional SARS. As part of Moyane’s executive team, it argues, this implicated the complainant.

2.8.2. It argues that it is therefore disingenuous for the complainant “to pretend that just because the final report does not go far enough in mentioning details that contain his name, he is being unfairly dragged [i]nto the Zondo report on SARS, when he was in fact a key cog in the machinations of what went wrong at SARS as captured by that report”.

2.9. The respondent further submits that the complainant was not the focus of the story. It contends that the appointments being made by the Office of the Public Protector was the focus of the article.

2.9.1. As such, it argues, the party that was expected to explain its actions and be given the right to reply to questions was the Office of the Public Protector, and that its spokesperson Oupa Segalwe duly responded to questions.

2.9.2. The newspaper further states that no fresh allegations were made about the complainant in the context of the story, “other than a few paragraphs that gave background about who he was”.

2.9.3. It says that it is standard procedure to send questions to an institution’s spokesperson to solicit answers, and points out that several other people who work in the Office of the Public Protector who were mentioned in the story were not contacted separately either.

2.9.4. The respondent adds that it would be surprised if Segalwe did not notify the complainant of its questions, especially in view of his senior position in the Public Protector’s office.

2.10. In conclusion, the respondent submits that the complaint should be dismissed.

2.10.1. Nevertheless, the respondent offered a “Clarification and apology” specifically in relation to its use of the word “hitman” in the event that the Ombud’s office disagrees with its understanding of the word “cited”.

Luther Lebelo

2.11. The complainant reiterates that the core of his complaint is that neither the Nugent Commission nor the Zondo Commission cites him as Moyane’s “hitman”, and that he regards the reference to him as such as disparaging, defamatory and libellous.

2.11.1. He quotes the second paragraph of the City Press article: “Lebelo was cited in both the Nugent commission … and in the Zondo commission into state capture as a ‘hitman’ for … Tom Moyane.” He dismisses this statement as disingenuous and duplicitous because he submits that neither of the commissions cited or labelled him as such.

2.11.2. Accordingly, he again submits that the publication failed to meet its obligation “to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly” (in line with Clause 1.1 of the Press Code).

2.12. The complainant also quotes the following sentence in the article: “He is said to have been instrumental in the side-lining of senior staff who were key to the functioning of SARS, a process that enabled the capture of the institution.”

2.12.1. He submits that the newspaper fails to specify where such a statement was made in the commissions’ reports and says that, instead, City Press resorts to technicalities.

2.13. The complainant points to the following sentences in the article as well: “Lebelo was known for being the enforcer for … Moyane. While at Sars, he was instrumental in the dismissal and resignations of experienced staff members at the tax authority while he headed the human resources department” (complainant’s emphasis).

2.13.1. He submits that it is not clear who knew him as an enforcer for Moyane, and says that he is hearing about this for the first time from City Press. He also argues that it is not clear who said he was instrumental in the dismissal and resignation of experienced SARS staff members.

2.13.2. In fact, he contends, he was neither the human resources manager nor the human resources head of SARS during the period in question, and therefore denies that he had the authority to effect such suspensions and/or dismissals.

2.14. In response to what he regards as the “technicalities” raised by the respondent, the complainant again refers to the newspaper’s submission that he did not object to the statement that he was the human resources manager who was instrumental in the dismissal and resignation of experienced SARS staff.

2.14.1. He contends that he thought it would be “common sense” to City Press that his failure to respond to all its malicious and deceptive allegations does not mean that he agrees with these allegations.

2.14.2. He repeats the point he made earlier that he was never the human resources manager or head at SARS, and therefore did not have the authority to effect the suspension of its senior employees (see 2.13.2 above).

2.15. In response to the newspaper’s justification regarding why he deserves to be called Moyane’s “hitman”, the complainant submits that it is not clear where the respondent obtained its “wrong definition” of the word “hitman”, nor does the newspaper state where it is that certain SARS staff members declared him to be “reprehensible and destructive to their future”.

2.15.1. He states that every reputable dictionary he consulted defines a hitman as “a man who is hired by someone in order to kill another person; an assassin who works for a crime syndicate”.

2.15.2. In any event, he argues, even if the respondent’s definition is to be considered – namely, “a person who does work on behalf of someone else” – the newspaper knows that SARS was not Moyane’s personal property, but a state institution entrusted with revenue collection.

2.15.3. He further states that SARS employees do not work for any SARS Commissioner, but for SARS as an institution. He notes that this applies to him as well.

2.15.4. He adds that, in light of the fact that it was incorrect for City Press to state that he was the SARS human resources manager and that he suspended experienced staff, it therefore follows that he cannot be called a “hitman” because he did not destroy anybody’s career – which makes labelling him a “hitman” slanderous.

2.16. The complainant further takes issue with the following response by the newspaper: “In our understanding to be cited means to be ‘referred to’ and not ‘to be convicted of’ … [There] is no doubt that he was repeatedly cited in the Nugent Report.”

2.16.1. He notes that the newspaper did not merely say he was “cited” by the two commissions, but that he was cited as Moyane’s “hitman” – which he says is blatantly false.[2] This, he argues, is the crux of the matter.

2.17. The complainant goes on to acknowledge the Nugent Commission’s censure of senior managers for failing to halt what it characterises as the abuse of authority at SARS during Moyane’s term in office.

2.17.1. However, he submits that he was not part of Moyane’s senior executive team (which, he says, includes EXCO members only), but one of more than 150 senior managers who led different portfolios.

2.17.2. He further denies that he was placed on provisional suspension in direct response to the Nugent Commission’s report. He reiterates his contention that the commission did not make any adverse findings against him which warranted a suspension and charges.

2.17.3. He adds that, in fact, SARS approved him for “a non-fault, mutual and financial settlement.”

2.18. In conclusion, the complainant submits the following: one, the respondent failed to prove that he was cited by the Zondo and Nugent commissions as Moyane’s “hitman”; two, neither commission cited him as being Moyane’s enforcer and he was not instrumental in the dismissal and resignation of experienced SARS staff members as head of its human resources department; and, three, that it amounts to defamation to refer to him as a “hitman”, which is regarded and defined as a hired assassin.

2.18.1 He contends that the newspaper therefore violated his constitutional right to dignity as enshrined in the Bill of Right and that, in addition, it violated the Press Code.

2.18.2. As such, he submits, City Press must unreservedly apologise on the same platforms it used to violate these rights.

2.18.3. He rejects the newspaper’s proposed apology and describes it as disingenuous in view of the fact that it cannot identify where he was cited as Moyane’s “hitman”.

3. Analysis

3.1. The complainant’s first complaint is his objection to being labelled a “hitman” in the article. He denies that either the Nugent Commission or the Zondo Commission cited him as a “hitman” for Moyane.

3.1.1. This contention is supported by a perusal of the records of both commissions of enquiry.

3.1.1.1. Firstly, according to the transcript records of the Nugent Commission, the complainant was, in fact, the only person to use the word “hitman” during its proceedings. And, moreover, he did so only to register his objections to being referred to elsewhere as such.[3]

3.1.1.2. Secondly, Part 1 of the Zondo Commission’s report – which deals, among others, with SARS – does not mention the complainant’s name nor, for that matter, does it refer to anyone as a “hitman”.[4]

3.1.2. In its response to this aspect of the complaint, the respondent offers a multi-pronged argument.

3.1.2.1. Firstly, it argues that it uses the word “hitman” to highlight what it regards as the complainant’s role as an enforcer in facilitating the resignation and/or dismissal of certain SARS staff members.

3.1.2.2. Secondly, it argues that the complainant was repeatedly cited in the Nugent Commission’s report and states that, in its understanding, “to be cited means to be ‘referred to’ ”.

3.1.2.3. However, the issue at stake here is not whether the Nugent Commission refers to the complainant at all, but specifically whether or not the Nugent report directly refers to the complainant as a “hitman”, as the article states in the following sentence: “Lebelo was cited in both the Nugent commission into the functioning of the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and in the Zondo commission into state capture as a ‘hitman’ for former tax boss and Jacob Zuma ally Tom Moyane.” (my emphases)

3.1.2.4. The answer is patently no: the Nugent Commission does not refer to the complainant as a “hitman”.

3.1.2.5. And, as noted in point 3.1.1.2 above, the Zondo Commission’s report does not mention the name of the complainant at all, never mind refer to him as a “hitman”.

3.1.2.6. Furthermore, the respondent’s defence that Moyane – “on whose behalf Luther Lebelo acted” – was cited does not hold any water. A person cannot be cited indirectly or by implication; to cite someone is to refer, directly and expressly, to that person.

3.2. The second complaint is that the reference to the complainant as a “hitman” is defamatory.

3.2.1. In this respect, the complainant takes particular exception to the definition in a dictionary he consulted which describes a hitman as “a man who is hired by someone in order to kill another person; an assassin who works for a crime syndicate”.

3.2.1.1. The respondent replies – quite reasonably – that it did not intend to suggest that the complainant killed anyone. Indeed, there are no grounds in the article to suggest that the complainant was engaged in any acts of violence which resulted in the deaths of anyone.

3.2.2. In addition, the complainant takes issue with the newspaper’s definition of a “hitman” as someone who works on behalf of someone else and, furthermore, that such work is destructive to the future of others.

3.2.2.1. He argues that he while he was at SARS he was not in the employ of an individual but of an institution, and that he did not destroy the career of anyone. Accordingly, he suggests, it is slanderous to describe him as a “hitman”.

3.2.3. The key question at stake in this aspect of the complaint is whether or not there is any merit in the respondent’s contention in its article that the complainant was “instrumental in the side-lining of senior staff who were key to the functioning of Sars”.

3.2.3.1 The Nugent Commission provides some justification for such an argument. In Chapter 1 of its final report released in December 2018, it states on Page 16: “We have been told that Mr Lebelo’s delegated authority to dismiss employees has … been removed. We are gratified by [that decision]. It is time that dignity and decency return to SARS.”[5]

3.2.3.2. This is a clear indication that, as a senior manager at SARS at the time, the Nugent Commission held him to be complicit in the dismissal of certain staff members during Moyane’s tenure as SARS Commissioner by virtue of the authority delegated to him (even though he was not head or manager of human resources at SARS).

3.2.3.3. The facts in the City Press article are therefore “true or substantially true”, in compliance with Clause 3.3.1 of the Press Code, and, as such, cannot be deemed to be defamatory.

3.2.3.4. In other words, even though the complainant was not cited as a “hitman” in either commission of enquiry, his actions were regarded by no less than the Nugent Commission as playing a role in the dismissal of certain SARS staff members.

3.2.4. Another indication that the complainant was among those regarded as playing a role at SARS that raised serious concern is the fact that the revenue service placed him on provisional suspension in direct response to the Nugent Commission’s report.

3.2.4.1. SARS issued a statement on 31 July 2019 which announced the precautionary suspension of the complainant and two other executives, and states that it is “part of an ongoing comprehensive review of the whole SARS leadership by the Commissioner in terms of good governance, and further, in response to the report on the Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance by SARS, the ‘Nugent Report’ ”.[6]

3.3. The third complaint is that the respondent failed to grant the complainant a right of reply.

3.3.1. The primary focus of the article was on the Public Protector’s instruction to the complainant to “monitor” the work of two senior SARS investigators because she reportedly lost trust in them.

3.3.1.1. In view of the fact that the complainant did not appoint himself to this oversight role, and was performing this role at the behest of the Public Protector, the respondent was perfectly justified in approaching the Public Protector’s office for comment on the matter.

3.3.1.2. In so doing, and duly obtaining comment from Segalwe, the newspaper sufficiently complied with the audi alteram partem rule.

3.4. The fourth complaint is that the respondent relies on unsubstantiated allegations before the Nugent Commission and does not state upfront that such claims were not confirmed in its findings.

3.4.1. This objection is presumably based on the following sentence in the article: “He [the complainant] is said to have been instrumental in the side-lining of senior staff who were key to the functioning of Sars, a process that enabled the capture of the institution.”

3.4.1.1. The complainant submits that, as he was not human resources manager or head at SARS, he did not have the authority to effect the suspension and/or dismissal of SARS staff members.

3.4.1.2. However, the Nugent Commission holds a different view. As noted in 3.2.3.1 above, it welcomes the removal of the complainant’s “delegated authority to dismiss employees” in its final report.

3.4.1.3. This clearly indicates that, in light of the fact that he was a senior manager at SARS at the time, the Nugent Commission regards him as complicit in the dismissal of certain staff members.

3.4.2. Furthermore, as noted in 3.2.4 above, the fact that SARS placed him on provisional suspension in direct response to the Nugent Commission’s report is another indication that the complainant was among those regarded as playing a role at the revenue service that raised serious concern.

3.4.2.1. After the Nugent Commission completed its enquiry, SARS issued a statement on 31 July 2019 which announced the precautionary suspension of the complainant and two other executives, and explicitly states that this is in response to the commission’s report.

3.4.2.2. There is therefore sufficient reason to contend that the complainant was involved in “side-lining” certain SARS staff members.

3.5. The fifth complaint relates to the use of the word “hitman” in the headline.

3.5.1. The inclusion of this word in the headline is evidently based on the following sentence in the article as it includes the only reference to “hitman” in the entire article: “Lebelo was cited in both the Nugent commission into the functioning of the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and in the Zondo commission into state capture as a ‘hitman’ for former tax boss and Jacob Zuma ally Tom Moyane.”

3.5.2. However, as explained under 3.1 above, the complainant was not cited as a “hitman” by either the Nugent Commission or the Zondo Commission.

3.5.3. In the same way that there is no justification to refer to the complainant as a “hitman” in the article, there is, accordingly, no justification to refer to the complainant as a “hitman” in the headline.

3.6. Finally, I would like to draw attention to the undue delays which unnecessarily prolonged this complaint. After it was lodged with the Press Council on 8 April, there were subsequently various delays by both parties, mostly on the part of the respondent.

3.6.1. As stated in a previous Finding, a key objective of the Press Council and the Ombud’s office is to provide a mechanism through which complaints can be addressed expeditiously.[7]

If the parties concerned do not respond timeously to enquiries or requests for information from this office, in particular from the Public Advocate, this objective is seriously undermined.

3.6.2. Attending to a complaint over an unreasonably extended period, with unexplained periods of non-communication in between, will invariably lead to a backlog of unresolved complaints. This is clearly not in the interests of either party involved in a dispute.

3.6.3. Both parties concerned are therefore urged at all times to adhere diligently to the process once a complaint is lodged.

4. Finding

The complaint that the article is in breach of Clause 1.1 is upheld. Neither the Nugent nor the Zondo commissions of enquiry cited the complainant as a “hitman” (for the various reasons outlined under point 3.1 of my Analysis, in particular 3.1.2.3 to 3.1.2.5).

The complaint that the article is in breach of Clause 1.2 is dismissed (for the reasons set out under point 3.4 of my Analysis).

The complaint that the article is in breach of Clause 1.8 is dismissed (see the reasons outlined under point 3.3 of my Analysis).

The complaint that the article is in breach of Clause 3.3 is dismissed. It meets the key requirements of this clause, most notably that the information in the article is true or substantially true (see the reasons under point 3.2 of my Analysis).

The complaint that the headline of the article is in breach of Clause 10.1 is upheld for the reasons outlined under points 3.1 and 3.5 of my Analysis.

City Press is required to apologise to the complainant for breaching Clause 1.1 and Clause 10.1 of the Press Code. The headline of the apology should contain the word “apology” and “Luther Lebelo”, and the text should:

  • be published at the earliest opportunity after the time for an application for leave to appeal has lapsed or, in the event of such an application, after that ruling;
  • be published in print and online as well as on all platforms where the article complained about was published;
  • refer to the complaint that was lodged with this office;
  • end with the sentence, “Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding”;
  • be published with the logo of the Press Council; and
  • be approved by the Deputy Press Ombud.

Secondly, the headline of the online article should be amended to remove the word “hitman” and the following sentence should be deleted in the article: “Lebelo was cited in both the Nugent commission into the functioning of the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and in the Zondo commission into state capture as a “hitman” for former tax boss and Jacob Zuma ally Tom Moyane.”

Appeal

The Complaints Procedures lay down that, within seven working days of receipt of this decision, either party may apply for leave to appeal to the Chairperson of the SA Press Appeals Panel, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za

Tyrone August

Deputy Press Ombudsman

17 November 2022


[1] See http://www.presscouncil.org.za/Ruling/View/luther-lebelo-vs-news24-4639

[2] Here the complainant refers to my finding in Luther Lebelo vs News24.

[3] See http://www.inqcomm.co.za/Docs/trans/SARS%20Inquiry%20combined%20transcript.pdf. Note, in particular, the complainant’s comments on pages 2 397, 2 762-2 763 and 3 920.

[4] https://www.gov.za/sites/default/files/gcis_document/202201/judicial-commission-inquiry-state-capture-reportpart-1.pdf

[7]See Sedzani Mudau vs City Press (http://www.presscouncil.org.za/Ruling/View/request-to-reopen-case--sedzani-mudau-vs-city-press-4608).