The Mail & Guardian newspaper has published a correction to its story on corruption investigations regarding unions, so clearing Corruption Watch’s name. Evidence for the story, said the ombud, was simply thin.
By Corruption Watch Reporter
Corruption Watch’s name has been cleared after the Mail & Guardian published a correction to its lead story in its 19 April edition, which suggested that the organisation was investigating leaders of unions affiliated to Cosatu.
The article, which has since received vigorous rebuttals from Corruption Watch, including a statement from the organisation’s board, claimed: “Corruption Watch is investigating leaders of at least four Cosatu affiliates for alleged corruption related to their union members’ investment money.”
The general secretary of Cosatu, Zwelinzima Vavi, sits on the board of CW and the Mail & Guardian implied that the investigations it referred to were related to a leadership battle in which he is involved within the confederation of unions. It is a member of the tripartite alliance along with the South African Communist Party and the ANC.
CW Executive Director David Lewis said in a statement which was published in the original article: “Five Cosatu affiliates were implicated in eight of the reports [received over the first year of CW’s existence]: Satawu, Popcru, Saccawu, Pawusa and Ceppwawu.
“We conducted a preliminary investigation into one of these, namely a report alleging corruption in Satawu,” Lewis said. “However, when we read media reports to the effect that formal charges have been levelled against certain Satawu officials we decided not to proceed with our investigation on the ground that we were unlikely to add value to the police investigation … In several other instances where the complaints submitted to us had been previously reported to the public protector, we passed on the information that we received to the public protector.”
The newspaper’s ombud, Franz Kruger, referred to the original article in his column, which centred on the need for journalists to lean on facts. “Stories like last week’s front page lead report moved too quickly to the big-picture issue of conflict around Vavi without having established clearly enough the facts around various corruption inquiries into union leaders. Evidence for the key factual basis of the story was simply thin.”
CW deputy director Bongi Mlangeni said about the correction: “We are pleased they have recognised their error and corrected the false claims made last week.”