The ANC says that its deputy secretary-general, Jessie Duarte, will seek legal advice on her options with regards to an article published in the Sunday Times relating to an alleged phone call with deputy minister of finance, Mcebisi Jonas.
The paper on Sunday, 13 March 2016, reported that Duarte allegedly called Jonas to offer him then-finance minister Nhlanhla Nene’s job.
The paper cited highly placed sources in the Treasury and the ANC alliance for its information. It reported that Duarte is said to have called Jonas on December 6, 2015 with the offer, but added that the deputy secretary-general denied ever calling Jonas.
“No please for God’s sake can you tell Mr Jonas and whoever else that is giving you these funny stories to respond. I can’t respond to some stories. I am not interested in the Sunday Times’s drama. If he is the one telling you I phoned him, [then] ask him. I don’t know what you are talking about,” she told the paper.
The ANC said in a statement on Sunday that the Sunday Times article is nothing but gossip masquerading as news.
“ANC has noted the gossip mongering being masqueraded as news on the front page of the Sunday Times newspaper today, 13 March 2016,” it said, adding that the article titled “How Gupta shopped for Finance Minister” is in direct contravention of Press Code “to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly”.
It noted that the code further cautions to avoid use of anonymous sources unless there is no other way to deal with story and care should be taken to corroborate information.
“Sunday Times ignores these basic principles of the Press Code and presents as fact allegations, suppositions and rumours,” the ANC said.
It argued that no care was taken to corroborate the story and scant regard was given to fact that all those being implicated by the paper have roundly rejected the allegations.
The Sunday Times also alleged that the politically connected Gupta family wanted to “capture” the Treasury by appointing a new head, and sacking as many as four employees who apposed the nuclear procurement programme.
The Sunday Times reported that influential family – who have strong business links with president Jacob Zuma – allegedly also met with Jonas to offer him then-finance minister Nhlanhla Nene’s job, in November 2015.
The Guptas through an attorney have repeatedly denied that a meeting took place. “As we have said countless times, our primary focus is on business, not politics. To be absolutely clear: there was no meeting at all, let alone any inferences or cash offers.”
The ANC said it will be approaching the Press Ombudsman to seek relief “against the poor and shoddy journalism of the Sunday Times”.
It added that Duarte will further seek legal advice on her options “with regards to the lies being peddled about her by the paper”.