Ray Hartley created a monster

2018-10-22 15:42
General-Major Johan Booysen, former head of the Hawks in KwaZulu-Natal.

General-Major Johan Booysen, former head of the Hawks in KwaZulu-Natal. (Photo: Conrad Bornman)

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Ray Hartley’s response to the Sunday Times apology for the Cato Manor story is fascinating.

He attempts to trivialise abrogating his duty as an editor at the time the stories were published.

The fact that I had to contact him – the pilot in the Sunday Times aeroplane, if you will – to request an audience with the two journalists, Stephan Hofstatter and Mzilikazi wa Afrika, in terms of the audi alteram partem rule, should have alerted him to some red lights flashing in his cockpit at the Sunday Times.

He refers to one of the "apparent" peddlers of the story, i.e. Thoshan Panday. Well, Mr Hartley, if you had interrogated the story, which you ought to have done, you would have discovered that Panday was indeed one of the "peddlers". Unless, of course, the journalists in question deceived you.

Actually, one of the two colluded with Panday (a suspect in a multimillion-rand corruption investigation) to discredit me. Panday had a vested interest in the story because it could’ve derailed the investigation against him, which it very nearly did. In pursuit of fame and awards the journalists had no qualms with that. The fact that the journalists later wrote a negative article about Panday is neither here nor there. If anything, it confirms that their source was compromised in the first place.

Mr Hartley either didn’t read my article in the same publication or is deliberately obtuse. Claiming that I was quoted "extensively" by the journalists, which is an overstatement, does not negate my complaints articulated in my article. The journalists failed to fact and source check. I invite Mr Hartley to read my article in which I detail some of the distortions.

Mr Hartley’s attempts to justify the publishing of these stories are hollow and lack substance. Investigative journalism is just that. To investigate events objectively and not to be influenced by obvious agendas, which people like Panday, Navin Madhoe and rogues in Crime Intelligence obviously had.

'Offspring of a monster'

By sanctioning the two journalists to proceed unfettered, Mr Hartley established an environment for Hofstatter, Wa Afrika and Rob Rose in which the sacred rules of journalism became secondary to their quest for fame and awards. Consequently, the Zimbabwean rendition and SARS rogue unit stories are the offspring of a monster which Mr Hartley gave shape to at the Sunday Times.

I am aware of other journalists from other publications who were offered the same garbage but, because they had reservations regarding the sources, decided not to publish the stories.

The real joke of Mr Hartley’s response is that the journalists had put their lives at risk in tackling the story. According to him they "waded knee-deep through the blood of the KwaZulu-Natal killing fields". What utter hogwash! It is now trite that their sources were Thoshan Panday, Navin Madhoe, and rogue elements within Crime intelligence.

Their other sources were compromised individuals in the taxi industry, who were introduced to them by Mary De Haas. Another source of theirs was Aris Danikas, who fled South Africa after stealing R300 000 from a young black business partner. A SABC journalist informed me how she followed up on the Biyela Melmoth shooting on which the two reported. One of the people "interviewed" by Hofstatter and Wa Afrika told the SABC reporter that words were effectively put in her mouth by the two.

Mr Hartley’s defence of these two journalists is self-serving. His role in allowing the now discredited investigative team to morph into a group of rogue journalists ought to be the subject of a thorough investigation by Sanef.

I am all for investigative journalism to expose wrongdoings, but not at the expense of the truth and other people’s reputations for the sake of fame and awards. Ultimately Mr Hartley is now drinking from his own poisoned chalice. The monster that was conceived under his watch has now come to haunt him. 

- Major-General Johan Booysen is the former head of the Hawks in KwaZulu-Natal.

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