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'SA & the world still waiting to see Thembisa 10': Mbalula and Gordhan hit back at Independent Media

27 May 2022 - 16:38 By TIMESLIVE
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan have dismissed reports by the Independent Media group. File photo.
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan have dismissed reports by the Independent Media group. File photo.
Image: Sunday Times

Minister of transport Fikile Mbalula and his public enterprises colleague Pravin Gordhan have criticised several articles written by Independent Media suggesting  the two ministers are at loggerheads.

Mbalula and Gordhan issued a joint statement saying the stories about them were false and that Independent Media was still stained by its reporting of the infamous decuplets.

“The call to the rest of the SA media fraternity is to be cautious and vigilant when placing reliance on news headlines produced by Independent Media,” the ministers said.

“Similarly, the public must be reminded of the group’s audacious ‘exposé’ in 2021, when they reported to the world, without evidence, that a mother of Thembisa gave birth to 10 babies at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria.”

Mbalula and Gordhan were reacting to several articles the media group published regarding their allegedly strained relationship. 

One of the stories was headlined, “Fikile Mbalula, Pravin Gordhan allegedly fell out over R17bn Sanral contracts”, while another read: “Fikile Mbalula allegedly accuses Pravin Gordhan of trying to cause rift”.

The ministers said the stories contained “dishonest speculation”.

"[They] make accusations, with no factual basis, that minister Gordhan has improper, corrupt relationships with service providers of the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral), that 'Gordhan interfered' in Sanral tenders to benefit a private company and that there is disunity and divisions in cabinet.

“These events, which according to the group’s newspapers, are based on the mythical accounts of anonymous 'Sanral and government sources', apparently occurred at a cabinet meeting on May 18 2021, where, the public is told, the two ministers 'fell out' about Sanral contracts,” they said.

Dismissing the reports as false, the two ministers said: “First, minister Gordhan did not attend the cabinet meeting because of other responsibilities. Second, minister Gordhan has no business or personal interest in, or with any company that does business with Sanral. Third, he has no authority at all over Sanral or its procurement processes — the entity reports to minister Mbalula.”

The ministers' departments said the joint statement demonstrates the mutual respect and collegiality between the two of them as cabinet colleagues.

Meanwhile, both were seeking legal advice on how to protect their rights and how to take action against “a persistent, malicious, disinformation campaign conducted by Independent Media”.

“It is important for the public to be reminded that Independent Media are deliberately not members of the SA National Editors’ Forum nor the SA Press Council and do not fall under the purview of the press ombudsman,” the ministers said.

“In that sense, this has clearly become a ‘rogue’ element in the SA media industry. Is it no wonder that we have now been witnessing this devastating decline in (even the absence of) journalistic ethics and standards of news reporting.”

On Saturday, Independent Media responded to the criticism by Gordhan and Mbalula with the statement above. It was tweeted by Pretoria News editor Piet Rampedi, who wrote the initial "decuplets" stories.

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