Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe says he regrets making statements during a telephonic conversation with the Sunday World in which he made claims about the bribery of journalists.
On Thursday, department spokesperson David Shabangu said in a statement there was no basis for Mantashe’s statement.
The department’s statement was issued after Mantashe met with the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) on Thursday.
Shabangu said the editor of the Sunday World, Makudu Sefara, was also present at the meeting.
“He [Mantashe] neither met with nor paid any journalists. He retracts what he said.
“The minister further commits to fully participate in Sanef’s inquiry into media ethics and credibility led by retired Judge [Kathy] Satchwell. This is to ensure transparency, fair and appropriate scrutiny, and to assist in engendering trust in newsrooms; and between the media and society at large,” Shabangu said.
On Sunday, the newspaper published a response from Mantashe, claiming he had declined to answer questions about a love triangle involving him, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Lerato Habiba Makgatho.
According to the response the paper published, Mantashe had begged two journalists not to publish the story and paid them. He, however, would not reveal their names and said the publication could go ahead and write the story as that was his comment.
On Tuesday, Mantashe denied the claim.
In a statement Sanef said that it reiterated during the meeting that allegations have impacted not only the Sunday World but on the media industry as a whole.
The statement said that “paid for” or so-called “brown envelope” is gutter journalism, and an assault to media ethics.
“The Minister’s initial statement that he bribed journalists and then his withdrawal of this claim has threatened the invaluable trust relationship necessary between the publication and readers – but also amongst the Sunday World and its journalists. Sefara has been forced to subject all his staff to lie-detector tests.”
Sanef chairperson, Mahlatse Mahlase asked that Mantashe apologise to the country, journalists at Sunday World, and the industry for the damage, pain and confusion he has caused by making such serious allegations.
“Our reporters feel he must apologise not just to the paper, but for causing pain and trauma in their lives,” Sefara said.
The ANC said that it welcomes Mantashe’s statement. Mantashe is the party’s national chairperson.
“We accept his assurance that he was never and will never be involved in acts that may erode the credibility and integrity of the media. Bribing journalists is not only criminal and unethical, it is also inconsistent with the values of the ANC,” party spokesperson Pule Mabe said.
The party commended Mantashe for meeting with Sanef and coming clean on the matter.
“We further welcome his commitment to participate in the SANEF enquiry into media ethics and credibility. This demonstrates his commitment to media freedom and respect for the independence of the media. This is the conduct we expect from all leaders and cadres of our movement,” Mabe said.