Mike Nqobile vs TimesLive

Complainant: Mike Nqobile

Lodged by: Mike Nqobile

Article: ‘I was hacked’, says man who apparently claimed Meyiwa was shot by Khumalo’s ‘brother-in-law’

Author of article: Bernice Maune

Date: 18 November 2014

Respondent: TimesLive

Complaint

Nqobile is complaining about an article published on TimesLive on 28 October 2014,  headlined ‘I was hacked’, says man who apparently claimed Meyiwa was shot by Khumalo’s ‘brother-in-law’.

He complains that the:

  • article left the incorrect impression that he had been the originator of the story;
  • newspaper did not contact him for a right of reply; and,
  • publication of his Facebook picture on the website, as well as the story, has harmed his dignity and reputation.

The text

The story, written by Bernice Maune, said that a Facebook post − claiming former Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa was shot as a result of an altercation between his girlfriend’s (Kelly Khumalo’s) sister Zandi and her boyfriend − was an apparent hoax. Manqoba Oliphant (alias for Nqobile) reportedly claimed his account was hacked and that a false update had been posted on his behalf.

This post stated that Meyiwa had attended fellow Orlando Pirates player Rooi Mahumutsa’s birthday party when he left for Khumalo’s Vosloorus home. The post said that Zandi’s rumoured boyfriend, Longwe Twala, got into a fight with her. Meyiwa intervened, ending in him being shot in the back.

Twala Kelly, Zandi’s mother, and her other two children were allegedly in the house at the time of the shooting.

However, Oliphant reportedly posted an update later that day, stating his Facebook account had been hacked and claiming that he had no knowledge of the events articulated in the post.

Arguments from both sides

TimesLive says that at no point did the story make an unequivocal claim that Nqobile was the author of the post. Instead “[it]said that the post was made on his Facebook page. [It] is…clear from the embedded images that the story is accurate in this regard”.

Smuts explains the story was written after the post “went viral” and was traced to the complainant’s timeline, where it remained for several hours. When it was removed, Nqobile followed up with claims that his page had been hacked and that he was clearing his name with the police.

The legal editor says it was not possible for Maune to contact Nqobile as he used an alias on Facebook.

“We were not aware at the time that he used an alias. The story did, however, reflect Mr Nqobile’s claim (using his alias and posted on his Facebook page) that his account had been hacked.

“Mr Nqobile did contact our reporter after publication and she asked if [he]would be interested in doing a follow-up story. He agreed but after the interview said he did not want to be quoted. He also asked the reporter to contact the police and ask how they were treating his information – but not to tell them she had spoken to him. We submit that his reluctance to be quoted negated any potential news value the follow-up story would have held. Furthermore, there was no need to set any record straight because the original story was fair and accurate.”

Smuts adds that, in his conversation with Maune, Nqobile changed his story a few times – first he said he had received the information about the identity of Meyiwa’s killer from a friend via WhatsApp and told two people, before posting the message on his timeline; then he claimed he saw it on a friend’s page and reposted it; later he said his account was hacked and he only realised afterwards that the post had been placed there.

“Whether or not Mr Nqobile reposted a post from elsewhere is immaterial. It was posted on his Facebook page and he claimed on the same page that his account had been hacked.”

Nqobile replies: “The bottom line is that I did NOT post the story and the cutting. I did not originate the story and yes my account was hacked into and yes I did share the post after seeing it on a friend’s wall and not whatsapp. The publishing of the story alone does not mean much but the further publishing of my photos from my private account put me in danger together with my family.”

He adds that the story was published long after the incident, and claims that he had been cleared by the police, who had the details of the originator. “It is a sad story as it misled the police, public, and even the author herself was just trying to find fame from a baseless story.”

My considerations

The article clearly stated Nqobile’s claim that his account had been hacked and that the apparent hoax was not of his making.

As such, the story was accurate – and therefore it could not have caused Nqobile unnecessary harm.

I also believe that the issue was newsworthy, given the high profile of the case.

TimesLive’s explanation that it was not possible for Maune to contact Nqobile (as he used an alias on Facebook) is also reasonable and acceptable. So is the rest of its argument.

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