SA media houses want in on Nkandla hearings

2015-02-26 00:00

THREE of South Africa’s largest media outlets are to fight a ruling preventing them from reporting on the Nkandla hearings.

Media24, the Times Media Group and M&G Media Limited have filed an application at the Pietermaritzburg High Court to set aside a ruling that effectively bars the media from reporting on the disciplinary hearings into the 12 Department of Public Works officials fingered in the R246 million upgrade of President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home.

The officials are all charged with ­maladministration and their alleged role in ­disregarding ­government policy.

The ruling that barred media was ­ordered in November at an internal inquiry set up by the DPW.

In a supporting affidavit by Media24’s Adriaan Basson, the editor of Afrikaans daily Beeld and editor-in-chief of online Afrikaans news website Netwerk24, said: “The public interest in the cost of [the Nkandla residence] upgrades and the ­irregularities that have occurred in the process is immense.”

Basson said that there is a “public perception” that the employees may be used as “scapegoats” in an effort to avoid blaming higher ranked officials.

“It is not overstating the matter to suggest that the Nkandla scandal is one of the greatest challenges facing South Africa’s democracy. These are serious matters which could serve to undermine public confidence in the government and lawful utilisation of public funds,” said Basson.

Basson’s affidavit continues that it is “vital” that the disciplinary hearings against the employees are “regarded as legitimate” and that to deny the media would allow the Department of ­Public Works to hide behind “a thin shroud of privacy” despite the “egregious violations”.

“Allowing the South African public to follow the proceedings via the appropriate media coverage is fundamental to this credibility.”

The media groups are seeking access for up to four journalists into any of the disciplinary hearings for their print ­media divisions only.

A date for the application has yet to be set.

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