Appeal Decision: Hlathwayo MF vs Roodepoort Rekord

Decision: Appeal Hearing

Applicant: Hlathwayo MF 

Respondent: Roodepoort Rekord

Matter No: 3417/07/2017
1.         Mr Mzwakhe Hlatshwayo (“applicant”) lodged a complaint with the office of the Press Ombud against Roodepoort Rekord (“respondent”).  The complaint was about an article which appeared in respondent’s edition of 16 June 2017, with the headline “Sex, drugs and chalk?” The article was reporting on some complaints and comments the respondent had received about a particular movie which was shown to some primary pupils at a school headed by the applicant.  The crux of the complaints and comments were that the movie was not appropriate for the pupils; some parents said that it was not even suitable for viewing by high school students.  The article said some of the scenes included topless women, violence and dead bodies.

2.         The applicant took exception to the article, and then lodged the complaint.  The Ombud, in his Ruling of 22 August 2017, summed the applicant’s complaint as follows:

Hlatshwayo’s main complaint is that the story falsely stated that he had admitted to screening a dubious movie to learners; he denies that he ever spoke to the journalist, adding that the reportage has abused his name and defamed his character.”

3.         The respondent’s response was that the journalist made several attempts to contact the applicant; messages were left on his cell phone.  Details are given of the several attempts made by the journalist, getting no responses, even went so far as to send an e-mail.  It was a lengthy email setting out in detail the nature of complaints by concerned parents.  Also included were 4 pertinent questions directed to the applicant.  Copies of handwritten notes were given to the Ombud, which recorded the several attempts made to contact the applicant, as well as rough notes on the conversation. A confirmatory statement by one of the journalist’s colleagues who had overhead the conversations, was attached. It was therefore clear that at one stage the journalist did speak to the applicant.

4.         The Ombud dismissed the complaint, giving full reasons. He dismissed applicant’s argument that he never spoke to the journalist.  It is clear that the journalist did speak to the applicant at one point.  The applicant had previously spoken to the same journalist some years back and was happy with the coverage then.  This time round, he got the kind of reportage he did not like and which was bound to put him at odds with is employer, the Gauteng Department of Education, particularly as he screened to young kids a movie with an age restriction of 16.  It contained several swear words as well.  It is too farfetched to suggest that the journalist falsified his notes to reflect that he had spoken to the applicant.  Also not convincing, is applicant’s suggestion of a nefarious collaboration between the journalist and the journalist’s cousin apparently worhing at the school.  The probabilities are stacked against the applicant; he therefore has no reasonable prospects of success on appeal to the Appeals Panel.

5.         For the reasons given above, including those by the Ombud, the application is dismissed for lack of prospects of success.

Dated this 6th day of October 2017

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel