Gaye Derby-Lewis vs The Citizen

Complainant: Gaye Derby-Lewis

Lodged by: Gaye Derby-Lewis

Article: Hani killers ‘must rot in hell’

Author of article: Ngwako Modjadji

Date: 10 July 2013

Respondent: The Citizen

Complaint 

Ms Gaye Derby-Lewis, wife of Mr Clive Derby-Lewis, complains about a story headlined Hani killers ‘must rot in hell’, published in The Citizen on 10 April 2013.

Derby-Lewis complains that the reporter:

  • printed a statement by the SACP second deputy general secretary which was not truthful; and
  • did not ask her for comment.

She also lodged a complaint against the South African Communist Party (SACP).

I cannot entertain this part of her complaint – the SACP is not accountable to the South African Press Code as only newspapers and magazines ascribe to that Code.

Analysis

The story, written by Ngwako Modjadji, said that the SACP’s second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila, has called for Clive Derby-Lewis and Janusz Walus (who murdered Mr Chris Hani in April 1993) to be denied medical parole “and to rot in jail or hell”.

Untruthful statement

The story quoted Mapaila as saying that the reason why the Truth and Reconciliation Commission refused to give these two men amnesty was because they were lying. The reporter continued: “For as long as Clive Derby-Lewis does not speak the truth about the murder of Hani his apology will not be accepted. Our view is that Hani’s murder was a conspiracy and that Derby-Lewis and Walus were not alone. This conspiracy meant to plunge the country into a racial civil war. The truth must come from them [–] they must tell us who worked with them and then we can talk…They murdered Hani and now they want to get out. It they are remorseful they will tell the truth.”

Derby-Lewis complains that these comments were not truthful, and says that the reporter did not verify the truth of the statements. She quotes the TRC’s chairman Desmond Tutu who said that the commission was not a court of law and argues that the TRC’s findings therefore did not have any legal standing.  “What DOES have legal standing is the court judgment of the Hani trial in 1993 which stated very clearly that there was no conspiracy.” She adds that she presented the TRC with a report by the ANC which confirmed that there was not any such conspiracy.

She argues: “Therefore what the Communist Party is saying is a bare-faced lie and the Citizen has printed this lie without question.”

The Citizen says that Mapaila was merely stating his opinion (which has been aired before, and responded to by Derby-Lewis). The newspaper adds that it “made no claim as to the veracity or not of the contents of that claim. It reported on what was said”.

I note that in July 2013, The Citizen reported on the outcome of a similar complaint that Derby-Lewis lodged with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (the BCCSA) about an interview on April 10 between Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale and Talk Radio 702 presenter John Robbie. She reportedly alleged that the interview spread a lie by propagating, as truth, that there was a “conspiracy” surrounding Hani’s assassination, and argued that Robbie and Sexwale were in contempt of a high court finding that there was no such conspiracy.

The BCCSA ruled that, irrespective of what the court had found, some South Africans clearly believed that such a conspiracy indeed had existed, even though such evidence had never been put forward. The regulating body said that the mere expression of an opinion in conflict with a court finding did not amount to contempt of court – and therefore dismissed the complaint.

I have no reason to disagree with the BCCSA’s finding. Mapaila had a right to his opinion, even though he might have been wrong – and likewise, the newspaper was justified in reporting his view on this matter.

Not asked for comment

Derby-Lewis complains that the newspaper did not ask her for comment.

The Citizen points out that the SACP’s and Derby-Lewis’s versions of the events are well-known and publicized. “They are aired by both parties on a yearly basis around the time of the commemoration of the assassination of Chris Hani.” The newspaper adds that Derby-Lewis herself said that the ANC had stated that there was no conspiracy – therefore, “there exists no need to contact her to explain a position which is already part of public record”.

I refer back to the story that The Citizen published about the BCCSA’s finding. I believe that Derby-Lewis’s views on this matter had been in the public domain to such an extent that it relieved the newspaper of reporting on it once again.

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

 

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