Al Jazeera doccie 'gutter journalism' - Mahlobo

2016-11-14 15:37
State Security Minister David Mahlobo. Picture: Lulama Zenzile

State Security Minister David Mahlobo. Picture: Lulama Zenzile

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Pretoria - State Security Minister David Mahlobo has described a documentary linking him to a rhino poaching syndicate as “gutter journalism” with far-reaching consequences for South Africa’s international relations.

“It is shocking,” Mahlobo told reporters in Pretoria on Monday morning.

“The quality of journalism that is done in the story, the inferences and the conclusions made. It is a matter that is very disturbing because when I saw the footage itself, there is not an instance where the man says I’m a friend."

On Sunday, City Press reported that a self-confessed criminal and spa owner named Guan Jiang Guang openly bragged about bribing South African justice and immigration officials in an Al Jazeera documentary. He said he knew Mahlobo well and that the minister had been a guest at his house.

READ THE ARTICLE HERE:- Mahlobo's rhino poacher 'mate'

“He says he knows me very well and how I visit the spa. Does that make it a friendship?” Mahlobo said.

“Then you have a newspaper, in the early hours of [Sunday] morning, it put out a big poster: ‘Minister friends with a Rhino Poacher’.

“When you look at the documentary, there is no demonstrable evidence, not even a shred of evidence that this thing happened.”

He said he was disappointed in how the story was “sensationalised” in the media.

“It is so reckless because it has an impact on my personal integrity; remember I am a leader in government. It puts the Cabinet under President Zuma in disrepute.”

Mahlobo said the story had damaged the ruling party’s image and his roles as a member of the ANC’s national executive and national working committees.

Then there was the impact it had on his family, he said.

“Remember I have kids, I have a family, and it is very unfair.”

In the documentary, a video secretly recorded by an undercover investigator shows Guan – a "businessman" and massage parlour owner in Mbombela – swiping through photographs on his phone that appear to show him and Mahlobo.

CHECK AL JAZEERA'S SPECIAL REPORT HERE.

"He came to my massage parlour every week, or at least twice a month," Guan says.

One of the photographs appears to show Mahlobo with a young woman. Guan said she was "one of my manicure girls".

Guan claimed he met Mahlobo during the latter’s tenure as head of the Mpumalanga co-operative governance and traditional affairs department. Mahlobo replaced Siyabonga Cwele as minister of state security in 2014.

On Monday, Mahlobo told reporters he had received questions from Al Jazeera about his relationship with Guan.

“The first time I even knew the name of the man is when I actually got the questions.

“I’ve seen the face there, and I do go for the spa treatments there. It is the most popular spa treatment in Mpumalanga. Politicians go there, government officials go there, and in our position people are going to request to take photos, does it mean connection? Does it mean friendship?

“He requested a picture. Many people want to take pictures,” Mahlobo said.

In the documentary, Guan told the undercover investigator that he did business with Mahlobo’s wife and not Mahlobo directly, so as not to jeopardize the minister’s official duties.

Mahlobo said the broadcaster had made no effort to speak to his wife to verify the claims.

“The wife has not been interviewed, questions have not been sent and you have this gutter journalism coming to a conclusion to speak about a person. If journalism was of high quality and standard, they would have asked my wife ‘do you have a company?’, ‘have you done business with these people?’.”

However, due to the seriousness of the matter, Mahlobo had asked police to investigate himself, his wife, and Guan.

“If the minister has a relationship or his family is doing business, they will have an opportunity to look at our bank accounts.”

Mahlobo said the worst problem with the documentary was the fact that Chinese President Xi Jinping and his entourage had been depicted in a bad light, which could affect relations between the two countries.

According to the documentary, members of a high-level delegation accompanying Jinping to South Africa for the Johannesburg summit of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation last year, bought rhino horn and “a lot of” ivory.

A number of cooks and guides who worked at the summit told investigators that delegates pressed them to find ivory and that demand for ivory chopsticks, ornaments, bracelets, pen holders and personalised seals was so great the supplier “sold out in two days”.

The delegates had diplomatic immunity, which would ordinarily prevent customs officials and police from searching their luggage as they left the country.

“Why would you say the president of China brings a powerful delegation on an important African mission, and say they have committed criminal activities? And then you don’t dig deep and say what it has done.

“This thing is far-reaching,” Mahlobo said.

Earlier on Monday, Mahlobo’s spokesperson Brian Dube said the minister was considering suing.


Read more on:    city press  |  david mahlobo  |  rhino poaching  |  media

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