IFP loses battle against Sunday Times

2015-01-26 21:13
(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - The Press Ombudsman on Monday dismissed a complaint by the IFP against the Sunday Times.

IFP general secretary Sibongile Nkomo, on behalf of the party, complained about two stories - one on 12 October and one two weeks later - and two columns.

The first story, headlined "'Colonial' taxes irk Buthelezi's last subjects", stated that party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi was losing control of his last fiefdom because subjects in his clan were rebelling over excessive levies and taxes to a tribal authority he ran.

The party complained the article "conflated the prince's leadership of the IFP with his hereditary position as head of the Buthelezi clan".

It said the newspaper had used a photograph of him which had nothing to do with his position as chief.

It accused the newspaper of blurring out the words depicting the site of his museum and documentation centre in the photo.

The party felt the newspaper was determined to link Buthelezi and the IFP to a scandal, where no scandal existed.

The Sunday Times legal editor Susan Smuts said the party wilfully misread the story. She denied the photo had been tampered with and said the newspaper carried Buthelezi's response in the form of a letter.

In it he said a statue of him marked the site of his museum and that it had not been paid for with traditional levies.

Press Ombudsman Johan Retief made no finding about the picture of the statue because the IFP did not produce evidence.

He was satisfied the newspaper had not used the word scandal in its story, nor implied one.

The second story was headlined "Homeland house still mine, says Buthelezi". The party leader was reportedly embroiled in a row with the KwaZulu-Natal government about his house in Zululand.

The IFP claimed the newspaper contradicted itself when stating which parties were arguing over the house.

It claimed journalist Bongani Mthethwa had ignored its response to questions to suit a certain agenda.

Retief agreed with the newspaper that any reasonable reader would be able to work out who the dispute was between.

While he would have preferred the newspaper to have carried the party's own views on the matter, the story did reflect the IFP-controlled municipality's views.

Lastly, the party claimed two Hogarth columns made fun of Buthelezi "for no rhyme or reason", adding that it twice responded but these replies had not been published.

Retief said he had no reason to believe Hogarth's columns were out of line.

"I am not saying that they were necessarily correct - only that the columnist was justified in stating what he did, based on the stories that were published," he said.

"Also, columnists are not normally required to get comment from the people about whom they are writing."

The IFP had seven working days to appeal the ombudsman's findings.

Read more on:    sunday times  |  ifp  |  johannesburg  |  media

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