Johannesburg - The Press Ombudsman has dismissed a complaint
by the Democratic Alliance that a story printed in The Star newspaper was
Ombudsman Johan Retief, in a ruling released on Monday, said
the complaint was about a story printed on 22 April this year, and syndicated
across Independent Group titles, headlined "Reserve Bank 'does endorse DA
economic plans' ".
"The DA complains that the story inaccurately stated
that: the party were running a radio advertisement that the SA Reserve Bank had
'endorsed' its economic plan and had “agreed” with it..." said Retief.
"...And party leader Helen Zille said at a rally in
Kroonstad that the Reserve Bank had 'modelled' its economic policy."
The story stated that the DA was "continuing to claim
that the SA Reserve Bank has endorsed the party’s economic politics, despite
both the bank and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan rejecting the claims several
This was even though DA leaders were careful to attribute
the endorsement of their manifesto to "a Reserve Bank consultant".
"The journalists claimed that the DA’s radio adverts
'repeat[ed] the claims'," Retief said.
"They also reported that Zille said at a rally outside
Kroonstad that this consultant 'did an economic model of the DA’s policies and
stated it would lead to eight percent growth and six million real, sustainable
"Gordhan reportedly said that the Bank had not endorsed
the consultant’s 'working paper'."
The text of the advert included: "It’s clear that our
country needs jobs. More jobs means less crime and a better life for everyone.
The DA will carry out a plan that the South African Reserve Bank [SARB] says
will create six million real, permanent jobs…".
The ombudsman said the journalists also stated the advert
said the SARB 'agreed' that the DA’s economic plan would lead to an eight
percent growth rate and the creation of six million jobs," Retief said.
Retief said the questions confronting him was whether the story
misrepresented the DA’s position and, if so, whether it had likely caused it
While Retief believed that the story was technically
inaccurate, he referenced an interview Zille had done with eNCA, which The Star
had also cited, where she said: "We know we can get six million jobs if we
have a proper economic policy that can grow the economy at eight percent per
"The Reserve Bank has modelled the DA’s policy and has
concluded that indeed we can achieve eight percent growth."
Retief said if Zille never said those words, he would have
found the statement in the story to be essentially untrue and an apology would
have been appropriate.
"However, I have evidence that she did make that
statement. Even though the story inaccurately stated that the DA’s advert said
the SARB had endorsed its policy, I therefore do not believe that this mistake
may have caused it unnecessary harm of any kind."
Retief said he had no evidence that Zille stated the SARB
had "modelled" or "endorsed" the DA's policy, at the rally
"The newspaper also did not provide me with any proof
to this effect," he said.
"However, even if it was inaccurate to have stated that
she made this statement near Kroonstad, Zille had made the very same assertion
"I therefore again do not believe that this mistake was
material and that it would have caused her or her party any unnecessary
Regardless of the above, Retief was concerned the
journalists got the when and the where of Zille's statement wrong on both
"This is a cause for concern, and should urgently be
addressed by the powers that be at The Star," he said.
"Secondly, if I ask the newspaper to correct the
inaccuracies, the message would still be that Zille was on record as saying
that the SARB had modelled the DA’s policy - which is exactly what the party
does not want."