Piet makes the premier go nuts

2011-07-02 09:28

Lucky I’m still here this week ­after Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale told me to resign on Tuesday.

By Wednesday, he said he might have been a little harsh, and so I could keep my perch.

Thank God. I like my job.

Certainly, the premier must like his too. It took him and a delegation to a balmy midsummer Italy this week, along with his pal, ANC Youth League president ­Julius Malema – all revving it up in the land of Boonga Boonga.

The other week, my sources in the City Press newsroom told me that almost the entire Limpopo provincial cabinet was in Midrand at the youth league’s ­elective conference. It seems a choice life in the land of macadamia nuts.

My colleague Piet Rampedi is the person who makes the politicians go nuts in Limpopo with his forensic coverage of the decline of governance there.

Last year, Rampedi was instrumental in beginning to answer the question of how Malema sustains his lifestyle on a junior politician’s salary – he is a businessman whose networks exercise a great influence on the provincial tender system.

The premier took us to the Press Ombudsman when we linked his administration to tenderpreneurship and pointed out that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan had ordered changes to the procurement systems.

The ombud rapped us over the knuckles for not pointing out that the probe covered all provinces, for calling a culvert a bridge and for using a misleading photograph.

But he also found no problems with the crux of our reporting, which was that Malema and his linked companies had won many, many municipal tenders – some of which had been shoddily executed.

This finding was misrepresented by the SABC in Limpopo, after which we approached the Broadcasting Complaints Commission.

This week, the commission said the SABC had corrected the reports and so we did not succeed in our bid. This prompted the premier’s call.

In this context, it is worth pointing out what else the commission said:

» The tribunal found that both SABC ­radio stations (SAfm and Thobela) ­contravened the Broadcasting Code by “substantial” transgression;

The tribunal found that the presenters “completely misunderstood and misrepresented” the Press Ombudsman’s ­judgment;

» The tribunal described the initial ­broadcasts as one-sided, factually ­incorrect and poorly presented; and

» Although Rampedi had been granted his say, the tribunal was alive to the fact that the damage had been done and that not all listeners would have heard the correction.

Neverthless, as City Press was ­afforded the opportunity to correct the ­errors, the end result did not contravene the code and thus the complaints were dismissed.

We accept that as a wise ruling as we accept and correct our practice whenever our ombudsman, Joe Thloloe, tells us to.

But the self-regulation system is much tougher than I’ve experienced in the past 20 years. We may not even doorstep VIPs any longer, as we found when we lost a section of a complaint brought by Jimmy Manyi, then wearing his Black Management Forum presidential hat.

While he dismissed the core of Manyi’s complaint, the ombudsman found that important people may not be called for comment when they are at VIP dinners as an adequate response is not possible.

These findings will make us better professionals as we seek to answer questions that vex social delivery.

Just the other week, Rampedi wrote a story about how Malema’s cousin, Tshepo Malema (27), was part of a consortium that won a R44-million pharmaceuticals procurement contract without it going out to public tender.

Tshepo claims he has not received a cent but civil servants blew the whistle on the award, which is now under investigation.

Tenderpreneurship is a fine art in ­Limpopo and whether I’m here or not, it will be exposed because of journalists like Rampedi, who know a rat when they smell one.

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