Former Argus journo ‘was Rasool’s man’

2010-06-30 16:39

The Cape Argus said today that it was “aghast” at revelations that

a former political reporter took payments to write articles favourable to

then-Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool.


The newspaper filled its front page with details of an affidavit by

ex-staffer Ashley Smith.


In the document Smith said Rasool had used him as his “front line

of attack” against rivals in the ANC, particularly provincial secretary Mcebisi

Skwatsha.


Rasool was ousted as head of the party in the province in 2005 by

James Ngculu, and axed as premier in 2008 by his party.


The Argus said Smith handed the affidavit to the National

Prosecuting Authority (NPA) yesterday along with a request for indemnity against

any criminal charges.

In it, Smith said he had at the time, in addition to his

Argus job, been a partner in a public relations company named Inkwenkwezi.


Although he had a one-third interest in the company, all the shares

were formally held by an associate of Rasool, Zain Orrie.


Smith said the understanding was that Inkwenkwezi would assist

Rasool with media advice related to the premier’s political survival in the ANC,

and that in return the company would get business from the provincial

government.


He said he was also paid to write news stories that would promote

Rasool and thereby damage Skwatsha.


The Argus said, in a front-page editorial accompanying today’s

article, that though it began a disciplinary inquiry against Smith when the

allegations were first aired in 2005, he resigned before the inquiry was

completed.


“The suggestion that reporters receive monetary compensation from

public funds in exchange for supporting political agendas is about as damning a

charge as you can level at journalists,” the paper reported.

“Naturally we are

aghast and have to acknowledge a failing on the Cape Argus’s part.”


The editorial stressed that the Argus wouldn’t knowingly be

involved in the sort of journalism to which Smith had confessed.


The newspaper said Rasool had denied the allegations.


Smith declined to comment, and there was no immediate comment from

the NPA either.

 

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