Nkosinathi ‘Black Coffee’ Maphumulo vs Drum

Complainant: Nkosinathi ‘Black Coffee’ Maphumulo

Lodged by: Macbeth Ncongwane

Article: Coffee gets more sugar? – Months after an alleged affair, a trail of messages and a recording indicate DJ Black Coffee has strayed again.

Author of article: Emma Liwela

Date: 23 July 2014

Respondent: Drum

Complaint

Black Coffee is complaining about an article published on page 14 in Drum magazine of 29 May 2014, headlined Coffee gets more sugar? – Months after an alleged affair, a trail of messages and a recording indicate DJ Black Coffee has strayed again. The story also appeared on Drum’s website, twitter page and Facebook. The cover page of this edition displayed a picture of Black Coffee and his wife with the captions: “Busted: Another one of Black Coffee’s affairs exposed”, and “He just wanted to use me for sex–mistress”.

He complains that the story:

  • infringed on his right to privacy and dignity;
  • inaccurately and unfairly tainted him as an adulterer who used people for sex;
  • was dependent on a single source, rumours or repetitions, which misled the public; and
  • has defamed him.

The text

The story, written by Emma Liwela, said Ms Andronica Msimango claimed that she had a fling with Black Coffee. This allegation had reportedly been “accompanied by flirty Facebook inbox messages (which DRUM has seen) and a recorded conversation between the 20 year old and Black Coffee (38)”. The journalist quoted an anonymous source “close to Andronica” who reportedly told the journalist that the latter and Black Coffee had sex after one of his gigs (in Newcastle).

The article also quoted Msimango extensively, who admitted to having had sex with Black Coffee. The latter reportedly refused to comment.

Analysis

Conradie responds to the complaint as follows:

Truth

Drum denies that it used one source only, saying that it had in fact relied on four sources.

The magazine adds that:

  • it has listened to a recording of the interview between Liwela and her main source, and argues that the story accurately reflected this information;
  • it was evident from screen-shots of Facebook messages between Black Coffee and Msimango that there had been an intimate relationship between them;
  • a recording of a telephone conversation between the two presented further evidence of the existence of this relationship; and
  • Black Coffee refused to comment.

Conradie concludes that Drum is entitled to believe that its information is true or substantially true.

Public interest

Drum says that Black Coffee is a nationally and internationally known and renowned DJ “and therefore [he is]a public figure”. It provided this office with articles from various websites to substantiate this claim. The magazine also argues that Black Coffee portrays himself to be a philanthropist (he has set up the DJ Black Coffee Foundation to raise funds for the improvement of the social cohesion of disabled people and orphanages) and a role-model. Conradie again provided me with documentation to this effect.

Conradie argues: “When a public figure holds himself out to be a philanthropist and asks the public to donate money to his Foundation and to other charities, we submit that it is in the public interest for the public to have an understanding of the character of the public figure in question, so as to make informed decisions about whether or not this is a person in whom the public have enough trust to be the ‘face’ of charitable organisations that the public may want to donate money to.”

Right to privacy and dignity

The magazine denies that the story’s objective was to defame Black Coffee or to infringe on his rights to privacy and dignity. Conradie states: “The objective of the article was to relay facts to the public, which [Drum] reasonably believes to be true and which were in the public interest.” This was inter alia “clear from the insert headlined ‘Don’t be an easy target’, where clinical psychologist Dr Nthabiseng Mabena gives advice to young women who are lured by powerful men into having sex with them”.

He also mentions the allegation that Msimango and her friend accompanied Black Coffee to his gig (a public event), and argues that Black Coffee “lived what he now professed to be his private life, in the public eye”.

Ncongwane replies that:

  • Liwela did not afford Black Coffee adequate time to comment or respond (he was abroad at the time);
  • Black Coffee has taken care to ensure that his public life remains distinct from his private life – but Liwela did not balance her freedom of expression with his right to privacy;
  • the journalist became an accessory to criminal conduct by Msimango who had recorded her conversation with Black Coffee without his permission (he calls this action “entrapment”); and
  • Drum should prove that the allegations in the article are true.

My considerations

The right to privacy is a core value in the Constitution of our country, as well as the South African Press Code. However, no value or right is absolute, as is clearly stated in Section 16.2 of the Bill of Rights, as well as in Sections 4.1 and 4.2 of the Press Code.

There is little doubt that Drum did infringe on Black Coffee’s privacy – the real question, however, is whether Drum was justified to do so.

I have scrutinized all the documentation supplied by Drum and am satisfied that the documents indeed substantiated the story. Moreover, Conradie’s arguments are all sound, and need no elaboration from me. Black Coffee is indeed a public figure and the allegations against him came from credible sources – which prompted Drum to believe they were reasonably true. This, in turn, justified the magazine’s publication of the information.

Ncongwane’s current claim that Drum did not give Black Coffee enough time to respond, does not hold water. In his initial response to the magazine’s request for comment, he never mentioned this argument – he merely stated that Black Coffee did not intend to respond as his personal life was private and confidential. (He nevertheless continued to state that Black Coffee denied all the allegations.)

Even if Liwela became an accessory to “criminal conduct” by Msimango (who had recorded her conversation with Black Coffee), the Press Code does provide for such an occasion. Section 1.1 states: “News should be obtained legally, honestly and fairly, unless public interest dictates otherwise.” (my emphasis) I submit that Conradie has successfully argued that this matter was in the public interest.

My ultimate conclusion is that Drum acted reasonably in publishing its information – even should these data later prove to be incorrect (see Judge J.A. Hefer’s ruling made on 29 September 1998 in the case of National Media Ltd and Others vs. Bogoshi).

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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