Bonginkosi Mabaso vs Ilanga

Complainant: Bonginkosi Mabaso

Lodged by: Bonginkosi Mabaso

Article: Ukhala ezimathonsi odivoswe isinyenyela

Author of article: Vusi Mkhize

Date: 16 November 2013

Respondent:  Ilanga

Complaint

Mabaso complains about a story, headlined Ukhala ezimathonsi odivoswe isinyenyela, published in Ilanga on 14 October 2013.

He complains that he was:

  • not given sufficient time to respond to the reporters’ questions; and
  • quoted incorrectly on the statement that he had given money to his wife or had made any promise to this effect.

Analysis

The story, written by Vusi Mkhize, said that Mrs Xoliswa Mabaso had lived with her husband for seven years without knowing that her husband had divorced her. She reportedly claimed that her ex-husband promised her that he was going to give her half of the money from the sale of the house and that she’ll will get R3 000 every month, as well as part of his pension fund. However, she said that she only got R20 000 from the sale of the house, which had been sold for R450 000 – that was the only money she got despite all the promises that her husband had made.

When the Ilanga phoned Mr Mabaso for comment, he reportedly said that his wife had been lying, that she had omitted to tell the journalist that he had given her R20 000 so she could look for a place to stay and later gave her R64 000, and that the rest of the money had been paid by the lawyers.

Not sufficient time to respond

Mabaso complains that he was not given sufficient time to respond to the reporter’s questions. In later correspondence he adds that the newspaper merely contacted him as a formality as the story was ready for print at the time.

A phone record of a call by Ilanga to Mabaso (I checked, it was his number) on October 13 lasted for 10 minutes and 40 seconds. To me, this was a reasonable enough time for him to have responded adequately to the newspaper’s (few) questions.

I also reject his assertion that the newspaper merely contacted him as a formality as the story was ready for print at the time. The call was made at 10:52 (which was long before deadline) and it lasted for nearly 11 minutes, which indicates to me that not only was Mabaso given a fair opportunity to comment, but also that the newspaper would therefore have taken his response seriously.

Misquoted

Mabaso complains that he was misquoted on the statement that he had given money to his wife, or had made any promise to this effect.

Ndiyane replies that the reporter put all his wife’s allegations to Mabaso, but that the latter did not respond to the direct questions that were put to him. “When we probed him further he said that we must only publish the version given by his wife” (including the money that his wife had received). He adds that Mabaso became sarcastic and later did not want to answer questions.

Mabaso counters that the matter was private (read: no public interest) and that the story was an assassination of his character as a man of integrity who was serving in the SANDF.

I have already decided that Ilanga gave Mabaso enough opportunity to respond to pertinent questions – which he in all probability did not do (he did not deny the newspaper’s statement that he did not adequately respond to the questions that the reporter put to him).

If he was misquoted, the blame for this should be on Mabaso’s shoulders first, which means that he has no leg to stand on regarding this part of his complaint either.

Finding

The complaint is dismissed.

Appeal

Our 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 Adjudication Panel, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Johan Retief

Press Ombudsman