Tasha Mlotshwa vs Sunday Sun

Complainant: Tasha Mlotshwa

Lodged by: Tasha Mlotshwa

Article: The rap rip-off! – Vocalist says he claims R20 000 for nothing

Author of article: Dimakatso Motau

Date: 3 December 2015

Respondent: Johan Vos, deputy editor of the Sunday Sun

Complaint

Mlotshwa is complaining about a story on page 5 in Sunday Sun of 18 October 2015, headlined The rap rip-off! – Vocalist says he claims R20 000 for nothing.

She complains that the story wrongly stated that she had:

·         swindled a music artist, Irving Ramashila, out of R20 000;

·         misrepresented herself as having had “connections” with DJ Black Coffee via his wife, Ms Mbali Mlotshwa, (after she had pretended to be a relative of the latter); and

·         been homeless.

She says the article was damaging to her career.

Mlotshwa asserts that the contract with Ramashila was terminated following complications in their working relationship, and that she told the reporter she did not know either DJ Black Coffee or his wife, and neither did she know anything about their marriage;

The text

The story, written by Dimakatso Motau, said that Tasha Mlotshwa claimed to be a relative of DJ Black Coffee and his wife (whose surname is also Mlotshwa) – and that budding rapper Irving Ramashila had allegedly been swindled out of R20 000.

The latter reportedly claimed that he had allegedly been conned by the owner of AEH Productions, Tasha Mlotshwa, for PR and marketing services “which she never delivered”.

“Apparently, Tasha convinced Irving and his mum that she is the real deal and is ‘related’ to…DJ Black Coffee [whose]wife’s name is Mbali Mlotshwa and this is what made Irving believe in Tasha’s ‘connections’.”

Sunday Sun replies

‘Swindling’ Ramashila out of R20 000

Vos says no contract was signed between Ramashila and Mlotshwa – only the latter signed a non-disclosure agreement. However, he argues that, as a contract may be verbal and proof of payment is also an indication of a binding contract, Ramashila was unhappy with the services rendered in terms of what was promised.

He argues that, if the (verbal) contract was terminated (as argued by Mlotshwa), then Ramashila should get his money back as he was not content with the services rendered.

The deputy editor says Ramashila paid instalments of R10 000 and R10 000 to Mlotshwa.  His mother, Wenda, said one of these amounts was paid in cash.

Vos explains that the agreement between Ramashila and Mlotshwa was that the latter would deliver a number of services to him. They agreed in good faith that Wenda and Mlotshwa went to the same church, and therefore there was no reason for Ramashila not to trust Mlotshwa. “But due to the fact that the R20000 was paid to AEH, the company needed to deliver on their services,” he says.

He concludes, “Irving simply wanted his money back, which he hasn’t received up to now, as he was not content with the services rendered by the complainant’s company. He said all they did for him was advising him to get a haircut, although he said he ended up paying for it himself. And he was also taken window shopping. But nothing else. We have three sources who are willing to speak to the Ombudsman. They are willing to corroborate what was published in the article.”

Misrepresenting herself

Vos says Ramashila told Motau that Mlotshwa said she was related to Black Coffee via his wife. “We stated it therefore in his words, and never stated it as a fact,” he argues. Motau also denies that she quoted Mlotshwa incorrectly.

Homeless

The article stated, “[Ramashila] said he’d heard Tasha was homeless.”

Mlotshwa complains that this is not true.

Vos says the story did not state it as fact that she had been homeless, but attributed it to Ramashila – who made this assumption after Mlotshwa left his mother’s house (where she had stayed for thirty days).

Mlotshwa responds to Vos

Mlotshwa denies that she:

·         promised to promote Ramashila’s music “on the proposal I sent to him after receiving his – [I]f you carefully check the report, [there]is nothing on it that talk about music promotion nor public relations. It only talks about Branding, creative direction, concept development and brand positioning…”

·         ever mentioned either Black Coffee or his wife in her dealings with Ramashila. “God is my witness. I would like to request proof for that,” she says;

·         was ever homeless – “[Wenda] invited me to come and relax while I was looking for another house. I never begged her for accommodation. I was invited as a guest to stay until I find another house. I was not bankrupt when I left Wenda’s house…I was never on the streets…”

·         did any public relations work for Ramashila – her proposal stated that when his brand was ready and well positioned after 12 weeks, they were going to look into public relations.

She concludes that she did all the work she had been paid to do, and notes that her company operates on a non-refund policy.

My considerations

‘Swindling’ Ramashila out of R20 000

The chain of events, as well as some correspondence between the parties, are quite interesting:

Mlotshwa says she started working with Ramashila on 1 February 2015 (the written contract was signed by only her, and it was not dated either); on March 2 an amount of R10 000 was paid into Mlotshwa’s account via the internet; and on April 2 Mlotshwa informed Ms Ramashila (who sponsored the activities on behalf of her son) that she was terminating the contract (due to some interaction between her and Ramashila’s girlfriend, Olerato)

In that e-mail, Mlotshwa inter alia stated, “The difficulty I had in communicating with Olerato yesterday agreeing upon an appropriate course of action has led us to conclude that it is necessary for us to terminate our relationship and for Irving to proceed with new counsel.  Accordingly, we will no longer be rendering services to Irving as soon as we finish the setup process that we were paid for which included: Advisory, Interviews, meetings, concept development, brand positioning, creating website content, copywriting, brand development, producing corporate identity and website look and feel.  It will take about two weeks for us to finish working on everything. When done, we will have no further service provider -client relationship.” (Emphasis added.)

After Ms Ramashila responded, expressing her regret, Mlotshwa wrote back, saying: “Thank you for your swift response. We will go an extra mile for what we were paid for until final execution.” (Emphasis added.)

Then, on April 17, Ramashila wrote to Mlotshwa, stating, “I would like to do a follow up on ALL the work done for my project as promised to deliver by you today…”

Mlotshwa returned his e-mail later that day. She wrote, “I am assisting with profiling, building of website, logo design, funding drafts / proposals and image branding voluntarily as it was not a part of what I was paid for. I was only doing that because of the arrangement I had with your mum and the good working relationship I had with her and yourself and for the fact that we are all god fearing people. I felt like it will be good for me to finish everything as per good relationship we had and part ways peacefully without any fights and arguments but with blessings. Should you wish I handover what I was only paid for I am happy to do that. We finished working on your work in March. Your image profile is not ready yet, the website is not yet complete, some logo samples are ready, funding draft / proposals not yet ready. Profiling you as an artist: We have not yet started working on it; I am waiting for your storyboard. (Emphasis added.)

“Let me know how you would want to move forward. Should you want me to hand over only what I was paid for I am happy to get the documents couriered early next week.” (I have slightly edited this text.)

The mere fact that Mlotshwa seems to be willing to make good on her agreement implies that she has not delivered the service which had been agreed upon. The sum of money involved is quite substantial, and I do not blame Ramashila for feeling that he was “swindled” out of it – neither do I believe that the newspaper should be held responsible for reporting this matter.

Having said that, though, there is a moral obligation on Sunday Sun to do a follow-up story when (if?) the rest of the agreement between Mlotshwa and Ramashila has been fulfilled.

Misrepresenting herself

The journalist’s notes reflect that Mlotshwa in fact denied that she knew either Black Coffee or his wife. Vos later admitted that the story should have published this denial.

Indeed.

Homeless

The mere fact that Mlotshwa left Wenda’s house did not by default mean that she was homeless. Also, the story stated that Ramashila had heard that she was homeless. That, of course, is hearsay.

The newspaper was not justified to publish such a damaging allegation which was merely based on an assumption and on hearsay.

Finding

‘Swindling’ Ramashila out of R20 000

This part of the complaint is dismissed.

Misrepresenting herself

The fact that the story did not reflect Mlotshwa’s denial that she knew Black Coffee or his wife is in breach of the following sections of the Press Code:

·         2.1: “The press shall take care to report news…fairly” and

·         2.2: “News shall be presented in context and in a balanced manner, without any intentional or negligent departure from the facts whether by…material omissions…”

Homeless

The publication of the assumption, based on hearsay, that Mlotshwa was homeless is in breach of Section 2.1 of the Press Code.

Seriousness of breaches

Under the headline Hierarchy of sanctions, Section 8 of our Complaints Procedures distinguishes between minor breaches (Tier 1), serious breaches (Tier 2) and serious misconduct (Tier 3).

The breaches of the Press Code as indicated above are Tier 2 offences.

Sanction

Sunday Sun is directed to apologise to Mlotshwa, on top of page 5, for:

·         neglecting to report that she denied she knew Black Coffee and his wife; and

·         publishing the allegation that she was homeless after she left Ms Ramashila’s hous.

The text, which should be approved by me, should end with the sentence, “Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding”.

If the story appeared on the newspaper’s website, the apology should be published there as well.

The headline should reflect the content of the text. A heading such as Matter of Fact, or something similar, is not acceptable.

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 Appeals Panel, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Johan Retief

Press Ombudsman