Appeal Decision: Daily Dispatch vs ANC

Decision: Application for leave to appeal

Applicant: Daily Dispatch

Respondent: African National Congress

Matter No: 990/03/2015

                                 DECISION: APPLICATION FOR LEAVE TO APPEAL

[1]     On 28 February 2015 Daily Dispatch (“applicant”) published a story headlined “ANC faces behind toilet tender scandal”.  The article stated that a company known as Siyenza Group had been hand-picked and awarded a R631m contract in the Eastern Cape to build toilets.  It said the company had links, through certain individuals, to a number of high-ranking leaders of the African National Congress (“respondent”).  Some names of senior ANC members were mentioned: President Jacob Zuma; Mr Gwede Mantashe, and Minister Lindiwe Zulu.  The story also stated that the tender had been irregularly awarded in that no proper tender processes had been followed.  The photographs of the three leaders were placed on the paper.

[2]     The respondent complained to the Office of the Ombudsman.  Broadly speaking, it complained that the article was malicious as its members had nothing to do with the tender; that it does not adjudicate tenders; that the headline was misleading and damaging to its leadership and that no evidence was provided to warrant the parading of the faces of its leadership.  Respondent also complained that there were inaccuracies in the story and that crucial facts were omitted.  The applicant stuck to its guns, and the matter had to be heard by the Ombudsman.

[3]     A panel of three, comprising the Ombudsman and two others, adjudicated over the matter.  In the panel’s Ruling dated 20 April 2015, the following were the material findings:

“Daily Dispatch … failed to verify the link between the awarding of the tender and the influence ANC leaders mentioned in the story and depicted pictures”.

Applicant was found to have acted in breach of certain sections of the Press Code:

section 2.1 duty of care to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly;

section 2.4 the need to verify, failing verification, to so state in the story;

section 4.7 care and consideration where dignity and reputation is involved. The complaints relating to motive as well as others of a like nature were dismissed.  Applicant was ordered to apologize to the respondent and reprimanded for failing to get “proper” comment from Mr Mantashe.

[4]     The applicant lodged an application for leave to appeal the above Ruling.  The copy of the application I have is not signed and is also not dated.  Respondent’s response opposing the application is dated 7 May 2015. In it, respondent raised a point in limine, namely, that the application was not lodged within 7 days of receipt of the Ruling.  It contends that whereas  the Ruling was handed down on 20  April 2015,  the application was only lodged on 5 May 2015; therefore, it was out of time.

[5]     There was no response by the applicant to the point raised by the respondent.  Nevertheless, through the office of the Ombudsman, the applicant was given until 20 May 2015 to respond to the point raised.  To date no response has been received.

[6]     Clause 3.7 of the Complaints Procedure reads: “Within 7 working days of receipt of the decision (of the Ombudsman/Adjudication Panel), any one of the parties may apply for leave to appeal …”.  No explanation has to date been given by the applicant for the late filing of its application for leave to appeal.  That being the case, the application is dismissed.

Dated this 1st day of June 2015

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel