Sinky Mnisi vs City Press

Complainant: Sinky Mnisi

Lodged by: Sinky Mnisi

Article: Tigers’ boss Sinky Mnisi has survived many scandals

Date: 7 June 2010

Respondent:  City Press

Complaint
Mr Sinky Mnisi complains about two stories that appeared on March 8, 2009 in City Press.
The first story is headlined Shady figure of SA soccer and sub-headlined Tigers’ boss Sinky Mnisi has survived many scandals.
Mnisi says the headline is unsubstantiated and the sub-headline is untrue as there were no scandals at all.
Mnisi also complains that the story falsely states or insinuates that:
  • the reason why Safa’s Appeals Board (AB) acquitted him was because witnesses who had previously implicated him got “cold feet” and others “developed amnesia” at the AB’s hearing;
  • his club, Classic, was involved in a bitter battle with Ria Stars over the registration of the player Modise Ngoato;
  • he had an “acrimonious break-up” with the club Dynamos, after which Dynamos was ordered to pay him four months’ salary; and
  • his club, City Tigers, is involved in a number of cases that might determine which Gauteng team would go to the national play-offs.
Mnisi says the second story, headlined Safa in mess over its teams, falsely states that the signature on clearance certificates of some soccer players was his. He also says the soccer club Bidboys was not awarded a walkover against his club and that Safa’s Disciplinary Committee (DC) did not decide that the match be replayed, as City Press reported.
Analysis
 
The first story:
This story paints a picture Mnisi, a former Classic FC director and PR officer of the soccer clubs Jomo Cosmos and Dynamos, as a shady figure in soccer who has survived many scandals, the most important of which is related to bribery of referees. Mnisi is said to have been banned for five years by Safa’s Disciplinary Committee for the alleged bribery. Mnisi’s subsequent acquittal is ascribed to witnesses having gotten cold feet and amnesia.
Other examples of Mnisi’s “chequered football career” mentioned in the article include:
  • a “bitter battle” between his club and Ria Stars over the registration of Modise Ngoato;
  • an “acrimonious break-up” with the club Dynamos; and
  • a scuffle between him and Dynamos’ boss Pat Malaleba that resulted in Mnisi being “thrown out” of a stadium.
Cold feet, amnesia
According to the story, some of the “witnesses” who had implicated Mnisi in the DC’s hearing got cold feet and others developed amnesia when the AB sat and that resulted in Mnisi’s acquittal. This is stated as a fact and is not attributed to a source.
The following is not in dispute:
  • Mnisi was banned for five years by Safa’s DC for bribing referees; and
  • Mnisi’s appeal to Safa’s Appeals Board (AB) was upheld.
According to the AB’s report on this matter, Safa failed to send representative to the AB’s first hearing on 7 and 8 March 2001. Safa also failed to furnish the AB with the original record of the proceedings, despite an assurance that the record was available. (The DC’s report that was presented to the AB was unsigned, the AB’s report states.)
At the second hearing on March 31, 2001, Safa was represented by Mr Govindasamy. However, according to the AB’s report, the DC again did not produce relevant documents.
The report continues:
  • At the next hearing (April 8, 2001) Govindasamy conceded that there were “gross irregularities” at the DC level with regards to Mnisi’s case;
  • The DC did not have a mandate to investigate allegations of misconduct before charges were framed – the DC should not investigate a matter and preside over its findings and recommendations. (According to the report this amounted to a violation of one of the rules of natural justice, namely that no one should be a judge in his or her own case);
  • Mnisi’s right to “a fair administrative action” was violated by the DC; and
  • It was strange that the DC took self-confessed bribery-taking ex-referee Mlungisi Soko’s word above that of Mnisi.
Based on the above, it is clear that the AB’s upholding of Mnisi’s complaint cannot reasonably be attributed to “cold feet” and “amnesia”. The AB’s decision was based on “gross irregularities” and a lack of “fair administrative action” on the part of the DC.
“Bitter battle”
The story says in the mid-1990s Mnisi’s club, Classic FC, was involved in a bitter battle with Ria Stars over the registration of Modise Ngoato.
Mnisi disputes this. However, he does admit that Ria Stars lodged a protest against Classic FC (which his club won) and that Classic FC also won the arbitration battle that followed.
From this it can be concluded that it was indeed reasonable for the newspaper to use the phrase “bitter battle”.
“Acrimonious break-up”; four months’ salary
According to the article, Mnisi had an “acrimonious break-up” with Dynamos, after which that club was ordered to pay him four months’ salary.
The reference to “four months’ salary” is not in dispute. According to a CCMA settlement document, Dynamos had to pay Mnisi R80 000. Mnisi told our office telephonically that this amount could indeed represent four months’ salary.
This leaves us with the phrase “acrimonious break-up”. Mnisi says there was nothing “acrimonious” about his departure from Dynamos. He says the club requested an out of court settlement – which was reached.
The settlement does not necessarily imply that everybody was on cloud nine about it. It is reasonable to assume that the payment of four months’ salary to a person not giving anything in return may result in some bitterness on the part of the party doing the paying – even if Mnisi says he did not experience any bitterness.
City Tigers
The story says City Tigers (Mnisi’s team) was involved in a “number of cases” that might determine which Gauteng team goes to the national play-offs.
Mnisi says his team is involved in only two such cases.
This part of the complaint is frivolous: “a number of” may also be “two”.
The headline and sub-headline
Art. 5.1 of the Press Code states: “Headlines…shall give a reasonable reflection of the content of the report…in question.”
This clause in the code has to be used in the context of the code as a whole. A headline may reasonably reflect the contents of a news story that is neither accurate nor fair. That headline cannot be described as good journalism.
The instances proffered by City Press in the story could at best show that Mnisi was a controversial figure. The newspaper went too far in describing him as a shady figure. Shady has connotations of sinister, underhand. City Press has not substantiated the use of the word.
The scandals in the subhead have equally not been substantiated.
The second story:
This story is about a protest that was lodged against the football club M Tigers for fielding an improperly registered player, Thabo Mathabela. M Tigers reportedly alleged that Mathabela had a fraudulent clearance certificate which he (Mathabela) said he had received from Mnisi. Another clearance certificate with Mnisi’s “signature” on is also mentioned in the article.
Mnisi’s signature
Mnisi says the signature is not his and is “fraudulent”.
This is quite possible, since Dynamos manager July Malabela is quoted in the story as fsaying: “Among the documents we have been given by the league on this case are supporting statements from Mr Mnisi that he did not sign the clearance.”
However, the article does not state as a fact that the signature is Mnisi’s – it reports that two clubs made the allegation. Moreover, this allegation is satisfactorily balanced by the quote from Malabela.
The newspaper therefore report fairly on the allegations..
Walkover for Bidboys
The story says the soccer club Bidboys was awarded a walkover after Mnisi’s side, City Tigers, failed to turn up for the match and that Safa’s DC decided that the match be replayed.
Mnisi denies both these statements.
Correspondence by Mnisi to SAFA indicates that this matter was probably still to be decided.
Findings
The first story
The complaint about both the headline and the sub-headline is dismissed.
The reference to “cold feet” and “amnesia” as reasons for Mnisi’s acquittal by the Appeals Board is not truthful, accurate or fair; it also amounts to a lack of context and balance, leading to a distortion of the real reasons for his exoneration. It is therefore in breach of Art. 1.1 of the Press Code which states: “The press shall be obliged to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly.” It also breaches Art. 1.2 which says: “News shall be presented in context and in a balanced manner, without any intentional of negligent departure from the facts whether by distortion…”
The headline and sub-head are also in breach of the code in that they are not accurate and fair.
The rest of the complaint is dismissed.
The second story
The complaint is dismissed in its entirety.
Sanction
City Press has argued that after the original story, it published the entire letter by Mnisi denying the allegations against him. The newspaper says it believed that that would satisfy him.
It didn’t.
It does not satisfy this office either. It is not an acknowledgement by the newspaper of any wrong-doing. The letter is merely a denial by a man who was implicated in all sorts of alleged shady activities – it is not enough to clear his name.
City Press is directed to publish this finding, as well as a correction of the reasons it gave for Mnisi’s acquittal by Safa’s Appeals Board, with an appropriate apology. Our office should be furnished with a copy of the text prior to publication.
Appeal
Please note that our Complaints Procedures lays 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.
Johan Retief
Deputy Press Ombudsman