Should The ‘Rogue Unit’ Reporters Be Prosecuted?

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Sekunjalo Rogue Unit

Unethical and fake news should be criminalized Adri Senekal de Wet 9/4/2018

IGI to investigate Mkhwebane, Rampedi and more over ‘rogue unit’ narrative The Citizen 4/10/2019.

In April 2018, Adri Senekal de Wet, executive editor of Iqbal Surve’s financial supplement, Business Report, used the IOL online platform to promote her call for unethical and fake news to be criminalised.

Her wish has been granted.

A little more than a year later – according to a report in The Citizen – the Inspector General of Intelligence, Setlhomamaru Dintwe announced that his department was investigating, among others, former Sunday Times ‘Rogue Unit’ reporters Piet Rampedi and Mzilikazi wa Afrika who are now de Wet’s colleagues at Sekunjalo Independent Media.

Dintwe will have been encouraged by the finding in the North Gauteng High Court on November 7.

‘Fake news, propaganda fiction’

Judges Selby Baqwa, Annali Basson and Leonie Windell found that the SARS Rogue Unit reporting by the Sunday Times in 36 articles over a period of two years in 2014 and 2015 was ‘fake news propaganda fiction’

They found that the SARS High Risk Investigation Unit was legally constituted, that its investigations were legal and that it had never possessed illegal spying equipment. Their ruling exonerates former SARS commissioner and Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, of any wrongdoing. His lawyers said the judgment vindicated him.

Also exonerated of any wrongdoing  by their judgment were former SARS Deputy Commissioner Ivan Pillay and the SARS executive who headed the High Risk Investigation Unit, Johann van Loggerenberg.

In summary, the work of the reporters who promoted the ‘Rogue Unit’ myth was devoid of truth.

Whether it was criminal has yet to be established

SARS welcomed the judgment.

Subsequent to her call for those guilty of unethical reporting to face criminal sanction, Adri Senekal de Wet wrote on 1 July this year:

“…as journalists, it is our job and our imperative, to dig deeper and find the truth, even if we are threatened or sued. As the old adage goes, “there’s no smoke without fire.”  

If truth is Adri Senekal de Wet’s goal and she wants to dig a little deeper  for evidence of fake news propagators and those guilty of unethical reporting who are deserving of the criminal sanctions she favours, she should read the recently-published book by Dutch investigative journalist Evelyn Groenik, The Unlikely Mr Rogue – A Life with Ivan Pillay.

De Wet can find extracts here and here, a useful YouTube interview with Groenink and her husband here and radio interviews here and here.

In her book, Groenink describes the devastating impact on the lives of her and her husband, Ivan Pillay, on SARS and on the country as a whole of the defamatory lies and evidence-free smears of the Zuma-faction facilitating ‘Rogue Unit’ reporters at the Sunday Times – lies and smears which had no basis in fact or law and which adversely impacted on public trust in the media.

As a fervent seeker of truth and promoter of ethical journalism, I am sure that de Wet will by now have read the denunciation by the SA Press Council of the fake news merchants pushing the ‘SARS Rogue Unit’ narrative to the immense detriment of all South Africans:

She will also be aware, I am sure, of SANEF’s October 2018 media statement in which it expressed its concern about the ‘deeply disturbing developments in the Sunday Times newsroom’.

She will, by now I am sure, also have read Anton Harber’s book, So, for the record – Behind the Headlines in an Era of State Capture, which he took two years to research.

Media puppets

Chapters such as Van Loggerenberg’s Trial by Media, The fallout begins and ‘Inaccurate, misleading and Unfair’ would in particular, have provided useful reading for her and given her the story behind fake news Sunday Times front page headlines such ‘SARS bugged Zuma’ (12 October, 2014) and ‘Taxman’s rogue unit ran brothel’  (9 November 2014). Accompanied, of course, with the usual social media venom so devastating to the families of the falsely-denigrated civil servants but oh-so-satisfying to the media puppets driving the ‘Rogue Unit’ narrative.

De Wet will, I am sure, be aware that all charges against the main victims of this evil and seditious reporting – Ivan Pillay, Johann van Loggerenberg and Andries Janse van Rensburg – were withdrawn because there was never any justification for them in the first place.

In this regard, de Wet will be delighted, I am sure, to know that van Loggerenberg has echoed her call for those who propagate fake news and practise unethical journalism – such as her colleagues Piet Rampedi and Mzilikazi wa Afrika –  to face criminal sanction

Having read Harber’s book, de Wet will be aware it was not just the SARS victims of this unspeakable reporting – which I am sure is anathema to her – that were traumatised:

Interviewing many Sunday Times people over the course of the research for this book, I was struck by how damaged they also were. Almost everyone I spoke to talked about the trauma of being in the newsroom at that time and how deeply it had scarred them. They spoke of it with lasting pain as an unhappy, damaging low period of their lives. They talked of it as toxic. They, as much as their targets, had been wrecked by the experience. Good journalists like Pearlie Joubert and Songezo Zibi left the media. Some, like Malcom Rees, were still struggling to rehabilitate themselves.

In following her own advice to ‘dig deeper and find the truth’ I am sure that de Wet will have asked herself the relevant and obvious questions following the publication of the books by Harber and Groenink and the North Gauteng High Court judgment which, totally and utterly, destroyed the ‘SARS Rogue Unit’ narrative for which the Sunday Times subsequently apologised:

  • Why has Rampedi not sought to explain or defend himself against the evidence revealed by Harber’s research which shows how Moyane leaked information to him which was then used in the scurrilous Sunday Times fake news attacks on people like Ivan Pillay, Johann van Loggerenberg, Andries Janse van Rensburg and Peter Richer?
  • More to the point, why has Moyane not sought to disprove Harber’s shocking contention – that, in Rampedi, he effectively had an embedded Stratcom-type operative within the Sunday Times investigative team? An operative in a team which was betraying the basic tenets of ethical journalism – Pete Richer whose career was destroyed and whose life was irreparably harmed, publicly accused this team of never having contacted him about their lies, a contravention of the basic audi  alteram partem tenet of ethical journalism.

Public interest

As the editor of a financial supplement, Adri Senekal de Wet will appreciate that this is a matter of profound public interest – not least because state capture, of which the attempted hijacking of SARS was a typically-cynical example, is estimated to have cost the country in excess of a trillion rand.

De Wet will have noted the words of Judge Robert Nugent about the corrosive impact that the appointment of Tom Moyane – a Jacob Zuma confidante – had on SARS, his call for Moyane’s immediate dismissal and his recommendation that criminal prosecutions should follow.

She will be mindful of the sordid role played by the Sunday Times  reporters who facilitated Moyane’s vicious purge of some of the most accomplished civil servants in the country. She will have read Pieter du Toit’s News 24 article in this regard and a similar article by Jacques Pauw headlined ‘Exposing the Puppet Masters behind the Sunday Times scandal’.

In the article, Pauw says:

This was not just sloppy reporting or journalists who got it wrong. This was manufactured journalism that was meant to disinform and to ultimately damage our law enforcement agencies.

This was journalism that had a higher purpose: to keep Jacob Zuma in power and weaken and ultimately eliminate his enemies.

Between September 2014 and March 2015, 55 senior managers left SARS with Moyane using the fake news Sunday Times ‘Rogue Unit’ reporting as motivation for this purge.

The Inspector General of Intelligence Setlhomamaru Dintwe, needs to brief parliament and thus the public on what progress has been made in investigating   and prosecuting the Sunday Times  ‘Rogue Unit’ reporters whose fake news articles were used by Tom Moyane to justify the evisceration of SARS with devastatingly deleterious consequences for the country.

Dintwe knows that the people of South Africa yearn to see that those who facilitated the looting during the ‘nine lost years’ of the incorrigibly-corrupt Zuma regime, are tried and imprisoned.

Judging by her publicly-expressed sentiments in this regard, I am sure  that Adri Senekal de Wet would agree.

In the meantime, the newspaper war against Pravin Gordhan continues – this time at Sekunjalo Independent Media – see here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here ….

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Ed Herbst started his news career as a photographer with the Natal Witness in 1968 but quickly switched to reporting while retaining an interest in photography. He joined the SABC in its Pretoria news office as a camera reporter in 1977, one year after television was introduced in South Africa. In 1978 he was seconded to the SABC’s Windhoek office for six months to cover the run-up to the country’s UN-monitored election and was then posted to the SABC’s Sea Point news office. He asked for early retirement in 2005 because of pervasive SABC corruption, news censorship and unaddressed abusive treatment of staff. From 2007 to 2009 he was employed as a consultant in the media department of the Cape Town municipality but became a pensioner when personal circumstances forced him to retire. He now writes without remuneration for local websites about the interface between media and politics. He is writing a book on media capture after 1994.