Hans Ramogale vs The Star

Complainant: Hans Ramogale

Article: Corrupt deputy director still in the pound seats – Health MEC admits nothing’s been done to censure Ramogale

Date: 5 September 2012

Respondent: The Star

Complaint

Gauteng Health Department official Hans Ramogale complains about a story in The Star on 31 May 2012 and headlined Corrupt deputy director still in the pound seats – Health MEC admits nothing’s been done to censure Ramogale.

He complains that the statements that he was corrupt, that he has been found guilty for awarding a R16-million security tender to a friend, and that he was found to have a personal relationship with one of the successful tenderers (Mr Padayachee) defamed him.

He also complains that the newspaper did not:

  • contact him for comment prior to publication; and
  • take fair account of all available facts.

Analysis

The story, written by Baldwin Ndaba, says that (the corrupt) Ramogale was still on the payroll, even though he was found guilty almost three years ago for awarding a R16-million security tender to a friend. A forensic report reportedly recommended disciplinary and criminal action, yet no action has taken place.

Defamation

The story calls Ramogale corrupt in the headline and the intro. It says that he was found guilty almost three years ago for awarding a R16-million security tender to a friend, and alleged that he was also “found to have had a personal relationship with Padayachee”.

Ramogale denies all of these allegations and complains that they have defamed him.

The Star provided me with a forensic report, signed on 15 December 2009 by the head of forensic services, Gauteng Department of Finance: Shared Services. This report concluded that Ramogale had misled the Department of Health and Social Development regarding a tender (the amount of R16 406 130 is mentioned), and stated that there was a corrupt relationship between him and Padayachee. The report also recommended that criminal action should be taken against Ramogale for corruption, and that the Department should take disciplinary action against him for misleading conduct.

Based on this, I can only conclude that the journalist was justified in his reportage as he based his story on the contents of a forensic report – which is not necessarily to say that Ramogale is indeed corrupt.

Not asked for comment

Ndaba admits that he did not contact Ramogale directly. However, he feels that the latter’s identity was never in dispute. The newspaper also argues that it based its reporting on a Forensic Investigation Report, which clearly shows that Ramogale made a statement and that he was interviewed.

These arguments are not strong enough. Firstly, the statement that Ramogale’s identity was never in dispute is irrelevant. Secondly, the fact that the investigation team interviewed Ramogale did not relieve the journalist of his duty to do the same.

No fair account of all available facts

Ramogale complains that the journalist did not take fair account of all available facts – but he does not state which facts were omitted.

Finding

Defamation

This part of the complaint is dismissed.

Not asked for comment

Ndaba should have, but did not contact Ramogale for comment. This is in breach of Art. 1.5 of the Press Code that states: “A publication should seek the views of the subject of serious critical reportage in advance of publication… If the publication is unable to obtain such comment, this shall be stated in the report.”

No fair account of all available facts

This part of the complaint is dismissed.

Sanction

The Star is:

  • reprimanded for not asking Ramogale for his views prior to publication;
  • directed to ask him for comment (if indeed he still wants to); and
  • directed to include these comments in the text that is to be published (below).

Beginning of text

The office of the Press Ombudsman reprimanded The Star for not asking Gauteng Health Department official Hans Ramogale for his comment regarding a story on 31 May 2012, headlined Corrupt deputy director still in the pound seats – Health MEC admits nothing’s been done to censure Ramogale.

The story, written by Baldwin Ndaba, said that (the corrupt) Ramogale was still on the payroll, even though he was found guilty almost three years ago for awarding a R16-million security tender to a friend. A forensic report reportedly recommended disciplinary and criminal action, yet no action has taken place.

Ramogale complained that the statements that he was corrupt, that he had been found guilty for awarding a R16-million security tender to a friend, and that he was found to have a personal relationship with one of the successful tenderers (Mr Padayachee) defamed him. He also complained that the newspaper did not contact him for comment prior to publication and also did not take fair account of all available facts.

Deputy Press Ombudsman Johan Retief found that we breached the Press Code by not asking Ramogale for comment. He dismissed the rest of the complaint.

RAMOGALE’S COMMENTS, IF APPROPRIATE

Visit www.presscouncil.org.za (rulings, 2012) for the full finding.

End of text

Appeal

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

Johan Retief

Deputy Press Ombudsman