Joyce Molamu vs Sunday Sun

Compliant: Joyce Molamu

Lodged by: Joyce Molamu

Article: Joyce: I’m no bad girl! (front page), which runs over to page 5 and is headlined Joyce: A lot of what is said is a bunch of lies!

Author of article: Prince Chauke

Date: 20 January 2012

Respondent: Sunday Sun

Complaint
Ms Joyce Molamu complains about a story in Sunday Sun, published on 6 November 2011, and headlined Joyce: I’m no bad girl! (front page), which runs over to page 5 and is headlined Joyce: A lot of what is said is a bunch of lies!
Molamu complains that the story falsely says that she hugged and kissed Mr Kenny Kunene and that she drank champagne. She also asks if the newspaper verified that it was her number that the SMS message was sent from and that it was indeed Mr Kabelo Mataboge who has received it (although the story does not identify Mataboge, Molamu does so in her complaint to this office).
Analysis
The story, written by Prince Chauke, says that Molamu, “the girl at the centre of the (Sports Minister) Fikile Mbalula sex scandal” and sushi king Mr Kenny Kunene kissed and hugged, drank champagne and partied the night away at the latter’s club in Sandton. Molamu, however, is quoted as saying that “Kenny is just a friend”. She reportedly added: “I’m not a bad girl. I’m an inspiring business woman.” The story also says that is has uncovered two more high-profile men “who’ve had dealings with Joyce”. The story mentions SMS messages directed to of one of them – a high-ranking ANC official from North West province. It says: “This man showed us (the newspaper) threatening SMS messages he received from her.”
I shall now look at the merits of the complaint:
Hugging, kissing, drinking champagne
The words in dispute read: “The two (Molamu and Kunene) kissed and hugged, drank champagne and partied the night away…”
Molamu denies that she hugged and kissed Kunene and that she drank champagne, saying that she had a virgin strawberry cocktail instead (which does not contain any alcohol). She argues that these false allegations portray her “in a horrible way to the public”.
Sunday Sun says that its “experienced journalist and News Editor” Prince Chauke acted on a tip-off and went to the relevant nightclub where he placed himself opposite the table where Molamu and an “unknown model” were seated next to Kunene. Chauke says that Kunene ordered a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne and proceeded to pour champagne for the two women. The publication adds that, after its photographer took some pictures, Molamu shared a hug and a kiss with Kunene and left. Chauke also says that, when he the following day questioned Molamu about the kiss, she responded that Kunene was “just a friend”.
In her response to the newspaper’s reply, Molamu says that the champagne that was ordered was Moet Chandon and not Dom Perignon. She adds that the “unknown model” was her sister, and that Kunene and two other ladies who were at the table can attest to the fact that neither she nor her sister drank any champagne. She also says that it was not her first time at that nightclub, nor was it her first time sitting with Kunene, and argues that the newspaper “made it appear to the public that I have now jumped onto Kenny’s bed, therefore degrading my reputation further!”
Regarding the allegations about kissing and hugging, I note that:
  • Kunene actually reportedly admitted that they kissed – the story quotes Kunene as saying that “it was just a baby kiss”;
  • the story does not say that Molamu and Kunene kissed passionately – it may well have been true that it was merely a “baby kiss”, but then the reportage still is accurate as a baby kiss is still a kiss; and
  • the reporter witnessed the event and I have no reason to disbelieve his version of the story.
As to the champagne: Even if Molamu only drank a virgin strawberry cocktail, it does not change the gist of the article. It would have been an entirely different matter if the story said or implied that she had too much alcohol to drink.
I therefore do not believe that the reportage portrayed Molamu in a “horrible way” to the public.
SMS message verified
The sentence in dispute reads: “Part of the SMS, which Sunday Sun has seen, reads: Hi – I’m at the morningside police station. I have concluded to open a case of rape. Oh I can see you’ve chosen to ignore me. You behave like the facebook rapist. You lured me to sun City, instead yo sexually abused me and I have witnesss to prove it.
Molamu asks: If the newspaper says that it has seen this SMS, did it also verify that it was sent from her number, and received by Kabelo’s phone? (“Kabelo” clearly refers to North-West ANC provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge.)
Sunday Sun replies that Mataboge informed Chauke of his relationship with Molamu in quite some detail. The news editor says that the former told him he got frightened after he has received the SMS from Molamu (quoted in the story). The newspaper says Mataboge forwarded this SMS to Chauke.
I asked the newspaper to forward me this message, which it did.
Molamu responds that there has never been any such communication between Mataboge and her. She says that she is even willing to give me permission to retrieve all her communication with Kabelo from the service provider. She adds that Mataboge told her himself that he has never confirmed such SMSes to be truthful to any media and that, as far as he was concerned, the media were lying.
Chauke said that Mataboge personally showed him Molamu’s number on his cellphone, “and I can confirm that this is the same number that appears on the complaint”.
I have no reason to believe that the copy of the SMS that the newspaper forwarded me is fraudulent.
Finding
The complaint is dismissed in its entirety.
Sanction
There is no sanction.
Appeal
Please note that our Complaints Procedures lay down that within seven days of receipt of this decision, anyone of the parties 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

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