ANC defends Gwede Mantashe as 'bribery' storm intensifies

29 October 2019 - 19:28 By Ernest Mabuza
Gwede Mantashe has refuted allegations that he bribed two journalists to squash a potentially embarrassing story.
Gwede Mantashe has refuted allegations that he bribed two journalists to squash a potentially embarrassing story.
Image: SIMPHIWE NKWALI / Sunday Times

The ANC on Tuesday welcomed a statement by its national chairperson Gwede Mantashe, who refuted allegations that he offered journalists money to destroy a story about his sex life.

The Sunday World - which published a story involving Mantashe, the minister of mineral resources and energy - reported over the weekend that Mantashe told the publication he previously paid two of its journalists about R70,000 to make a story go away.

The article was about an alleged love triangle involving him, finance minister Tito Mboweni and Lerato Habiba Makgatho.

“I begged them not to write the story. I paid two journalists at your publication. I will not reveal their names - you can ask amongst your colleagues and ask Lerato to tell you their names. You can go ahead and write the story, that is my comment,” the newspaper quoted Mantashe as saying when he was asked for comment by the publication.

But Mantashe later did a U-turn and denied bribing journalists to squash the story.

"The statement attributed to him seems to have created an impression of him being involved in the act of bribery. Mr Mantashe is clear that none of the sort occurred," said Moferefere Lekorotsoana, chief of staff in the ministry of mineral resources and energy.

The ANC said in a statement on Tuesday that it was "heartened" by the fact that Mantashe had assured the nation that he was never involved in such unethical and criminal conduct with journalists.

The party said this was in keeping with its commitment to safeguarding the integrity of the media and defending media freedom. "Bribing journalists is not only criminal and unethical, it is also inconsistent with the values of the ANC," it said.

The ANC said it had no policy or culture of buying journalists. It strongly associated itself with the letter and spirit expressed in the preamble of the SA Press Code, affirming that the media existed to serve society. The party said the media enabled citizens to make informed judgements on issues of the day.

"For the ANC, media freedom and the independence of the media are sacrosanct," said the ruling party, adding that it would continue to defend the right to report without fear or favour.

The DA said on Monday that it would report Mantashe to parliament's ethics committee, believing that he was in breach of the parliamentary code of ethical conduct and disclosure of members' interests.

The EFF called for Mantashe to step down with immediate effect following the allegations.

"Mantashe must step down if he is bribing journalists to hide a sex story. We can only imagine what other corrupt activities he is involved in. A man willing to bribe journalists is capable of being bribed himself as a government official and member of the executive," said the red berets in a statement.

The EFF also called on the Sunday World to release evidence of Mantashe's confession about the alleged bribery, whether it be an audio recording, video or written record.

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