Nonkonzo Caluza vs Daily Dispatch

Complainant: Nonkonzo Caluza

Lodged by: Nonkonzo Caluza

Article: KSD staff AWOL for months … working openly at the regional offices of the ANC

Author of article: Abongile Mgaqelwa

Date: 11 December 2014

Respondent: Daily Dispatch

Complaint

Chief of staff in the mayor’s office Caluza is complaining about a front page lead published in Daily Dispatch on 6 November 2014, headlined KSD staff AWOL for months … working openly at the regional offices of the ANC.

She complains that the:

  • story falsely suggests that she was working for the ANC during office hours while still getting her normal salary from the municipality;
  • journalist did not ask her for comment prior to publication; and
  • article has harmed her reputation and career.

The text

The story, written by Abongile Mgaqelwa, says that two King Sabata Dalindyebo municipality employees have been accused of drawing municipal salaries while moonlighting for the ANC during office hours.

Analysis

Moonlighting during office hours

Caluza complains the story falsely suggests that she was working for the ANC during office hours while still getting her normal salary from the municipality. She says she is a member of the ANC “and as such as and when called upon to avail myself for any task, I do volunteer my time for such tasks” – but, this would be outside of office hours.

In later correspondence she emphasizes that she has 60 minutes to take lunch every day. “How I spend the sixty minutes is entirely up to me… [It] is therefore lies and mischief to state that I work full-time in the office of the ANC.”

Siqoko says that the journalist on several occasions went past the ANC’s regional office “and (saw that) her car was parked there”. He notes that the regional secretary of the ANC himself has admitted that she comes to his office during when she is free – during office hours. “When she did the assessments for councilors (as the ANC leadership prepares for the local government elections in 2016), it was during the day. ANC councilors were interviewed by her during the day. We spoke to some of them.”

The editor also says that the mayor herself complained to the ANC’s regional leadership about Caluza about not coming for work while busy at the ANC’s offices. He adds that a senior council official (whose name he would give to me, provided I keep it confidential) has confirmed this information.

“Her vehicle is forever parked there.”

Caluza denies this statement, saying that she can get records of her car tracker to prove her point. She also says it is not true that the mayor herself complained to the ANC’s regional leadership about this issue. “Both myself and my manager, we have not had any discussion with the Mayor regarding the matter referred to by Mr Siqoko.

My considerations

The newspaper was squarely within its rights to publish the allegations as allegations – which is exactly what the story did. The journalist meticulously and consistently ascribed the allegations as the opinions and information gleaned from sources, and resisted the temptation to state them as fact.

Unfortunately, the same does not go for the headline – which state the allegations and accusations as fact.

Not asked for comment

Caluza complains that the journalist did not ask her for comment prior to publication.

Sigoqo says the reporter tried to phone Caluza on 072 679 6625 and on 071 851 8624. In addition, the journalist spoke to some high profile members of the ANC “[who]…can attest to this”.

Caluza replies that the only number she uses for both private and official calls is 083 494 7980.

My considerations

Harmful to her reputation, career

Caluza complains that the story was embarrassing to her, and that it has the potential of denting her professional image “and thus frustrate my career progression as it paints a picture of an irresponsible person without regard for her work”.

My considerations

Daily Dispatch fulfilled its role as watchdog to report the allegations. Caluza was a public official, and as such accountable to the public. The careful way in which the journalist reported the allegations cannot amount to having caused her unnecessary harm. The same does not go for the headline.

The matter was settled at the meeting. An apology to be published for stating that Caluza was absent without leave for months, together with her comments.

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