Waldo de Goede vs Ilanga

Complainant: Waldo de Goede

Lodged by: Waldo de Goede

Article: Umbhishobhi ukhala ngkomkakhe ogimgwe ngumlungu

Date: 26 July 2013

Respondent:  Ilanga

Complaint

Mr Waldo de Goede complains about an article, headlined Umbhishobhi ukhala ngkomkakhe ogimgwe ngumlungu, in Ilanga of 8 July.

He complains that the:

  • information in as far as it related to him were false (see details below);
  • story was not in the public interest;
  • information was not obtained fairly and honestly; and
  • reporter did not ask him for comment.

Analysis

The story was about a black bishop who alleged that his wife had extra-marital affairs. One of her lovers was allegedly a white man.

False information

De Goede complains that the story falsely stated that:

  • he had an improper relationship with Thwala;
  • he had stayed in a hotel over the weekend without his own family;
  • Thwala was promoted to be an administration clerk (he says that it was an internal transfer from typist to clerk, without an increase in salary);
  • the requirements to be an administration clerk in the Department of Justice included qualifications from higher learning institutions (he says a Grade 12 certificate was the only condition); and
  • Thwala worked for the Department of House Affairs, nor was she demoted.

He adds that the story identified him as the “culprit”, as he was the only white male employed at the Department of Justice in Nqutu – and argues that this has tarnished his good reputation and endangered his marriage.

With regards to the first two bullets: I take into account that the journalist ostensibly did not know that de Goede was the only white male who may have been implicated by the story (as he alleges), nor did the story identify him as such. If de Goede wants to identify himself as the “culprit”, he is free to do so.

I also submit that de Goede does not have the standing to complain about the last three bullets – that was for Thwala to address, if she wanted to do so.

Not in the public interest

De Goede complains about the story not being in the public interest, but does not elaborate of this matter.

Of course it was in the public interest – when a public figure such as a bishop was involved in such an issue, it follows that the Public has the right to know about it.

Information not obtained fairly, honestly

De Goede complains about the journalist not having obtained his information fairly and honestly – but (again) he does not elaborate of this matter.

The newspaper argues that de Goede did not know how it had obtained the information in the first place. The editor states: “I am not sure whether he suggests that we sneaked around or we tapped phones or we had been following the Bisphop and his wife in order to get the story. I really think he is careless to arrive at this conclusion with out (sic) knowing how the story ended up in the paper.”

The publication’s argument is sound, and this part of the complaint is without any substance.

Not asked for comment

De Goede complains that the journalist did not ask him for comment.

However, how should the reporter have done this without knowing that he was the possible “culprit”?

I also take into account that the newspaper says that it used two independent sources, after which it contacted the bishop, and that it was not able to contact the bishop’s wife.

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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