Pule claims blackmail by media

2013-04-22 13:46

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Communications Minister Dina Pule has lashed out at journalists responsible for writing reports aimed at “blackmailing” her over the past 10 months, implicating her in nepotism and improper conduct.

At a specially convened press conference at Johannesburg’s Park Hyatt hotel this morning, Pule read from a 12-page statement responding in detail to allegations against her, ranging from misappropriation of sponsor money for an ICT indaba last year to bypassing procurement rules on a R2.6 million recruitment deal that saw friends of her “alleged boyfriend”, Phosane Mngqibisa, winning key positions in parastatals under her watch.

Pule said companies with their eye on the highly lucrative set-top box tender, which has been delayed owing to legal challenges, were behind these allegations, because they were trying to “force me to make decisions in their favour”.

She said when that campaign didn’t work, they tried to force her to resign or have her fired by President Jacob Zuma.

Pule complained that all the allegations published in the Sunday Times since June last year centred on Mngqibisa, whom she didn’t name and whom she simply described as “an old comrade”, in answer to a question.

She said Sunday Times wanted to “mislead” the public into believing “that I am a corrupt minister who was bribed with a pair of shoes; that I gave tenders to a boyfriend; that I meddled in tender processes in order to benefit my boyfriend; that I have ceded control of the department to a boyfriend; and that I interfered in strategic appointment of officials and board members of state entities in order to appoint friends of the boyfriend”.

Pule has never denied that they had a romantic link.

She said she had kept quiet all this while because she had wanted to respect the investigation by the Public Protector, but because the newspapers didn’t “respect” that, she decided to go public.

When asked who had bought her the expensive pair of French designer Christian Louboutin red-soled shoes, Pule said she would not answer because it was subject to an investigation.

It was alleged that Mngqibisa had bought these shoes for her in Spain with some of the money he had allegedly received to help organise the ICT indaba.

Pule also rubbished the work of journalists who wrote the stories about her, which included Sunday Times investigative journalists Mzilikazi Wa Afrika, Rob Rose and Stephan Hofstatter.

She claimed Wa Afrika had links with some of the companies involved in the set-top box tender through a business venture whereby he imported cheap cellphones from China.

She also claimed that one of Wa Afrika’s relatives had tried to secure a meeting with her and “proposed love to her”, promising that he would get Wa Afrika to “abandon the campaign against me”.

She said she refused.

The press conference comes a week before Pule is set to appear before Parliament’s Ethics Committee to answer to the allegations.

Sunday Times editor Phyllicia Oppelt did not respond to Pule’s attack immediately, but Wa Afrika told Talk Radio 702 there was no campaign against Pule and that it was an ongoing story.

Pule said she would go to the Press Ombudsman about the story, but said, in answer to a question, that she hasn’t reported the “blackmail” to the police.

The DA, in a statement this afternoon, said Pule’s claims of victimhood “won’t wash”.

“Why has the minister not asked the police to root out these ‘blackmailers’?” DA communications spokesperson Marian Shinn said.

She claimed Pule was trying to “whip up” sympathy ahead of next week’s ethics hearings.

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