Spat continues over government R10m flower and gifts bill

2017-07-23 17:04
Lindiwe Sisulu (File, City Press)

Lindiwe Sisulu (File, City Press)

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News24 apologises to Lindiwe Sisulu over R10m flower and gifts allegations

News24 has been directed by the Press Ombudsman to apologise to Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu for stating as fact the allegation that her department had spent R10-million on flowers and gifts. 

An initial story, based on a statement by the DA, and a Parliamentary reply quoted DA MP Solly Malatsi as saying: "Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu revealed, in a reply to a DA question, that her department spent more than R10m on flowers and gifts for employees in the 2013-14 financial year.” 

The second story below stated that the DA dismissed the department’s explanation that it spent R10m in flowers and gifts as part of an awards programme has been dismissed as a ‘smoke screen’.

It also carried clarification by the minister that is was "devoid of truth" that millions were spent on flowers and gifts for employees, and that the amount included cash awards given to employees. 

The minister lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman, saying the statement that her department had spent more than R10-million on flowers and gifts was incorrect and misleading. She says she did indicate that the department spent a total of R10 241 089.23 on gifts, donations and sponsorships “which include[d] purchases of flowers for staff members … which does not necessarily qualify to be regarded as gifts”. 

Press Ombudsman Johan Retief ruled against News24 saying that “both the opening sentence to the story and the headline stated as fact the allegation that the department had spent R10-million on flowers and gifts”. 

This was in breach of section 1.1 of the Press Code which states that: “The media shall take care to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly”, and section 10.1 which states that “headlines … shall give a reasonable reflection of the contents of the report … in question."

News24 apologises to Minister Sisulu for stating as a fact the allegations that her department had spent R10-million on flowers and gifts.

Here follows the original story: 


Johannesburg - The Department of Human Settlements' explanation that it spent R10m in flowers and gifts as part of an awards programme has been dismissed as a ‘smoke screen’ by the DA on Sunday.

"We call on Minister Sisulu to release publicly the names of individuals and organisations who received the flowers, gifts and sponsorships," said Democratic Alliance MP Solly Malatsi in a statement, adding that the exact amounts given for each award should also be made public.

Last week, the DA released a statement declaring that Minister Lindiwe Sisulu had "revealed, in a reply to a DA question, that her department spent more than R10m on flowers and gifts for employees in the 2013-14 financial year".

'Special awards'

Earlier this week, the department issued a statement on its website in which it declared that it was "devoid of truth" that millions were spend on flowers and gifts for employees.

"We would like to put it record that during the 2013/2014 Government Awards, the Department of Human Settlements came up with a special award for the best performing institutions in the sector," read the statement.

"These awards were cash amounts given to winners to be used for human settlements development."

The department said that the "special awards with monetary value" given at the annual Govan Mbeki awards had since been "discontinued".

It also said that it was "unfortunate that the honourable member mischievously chose to change his question when engaging with the media by deciding to focus on flowers and gifts instead of sticking to his original question which deals with gifts, donations and sponsorships."

On Sunday, it was tit for tat when Malatsi said that the award explanation for where the funds went was a "desperate attempt…to trivialise its expenditure" and that the minister had not mentioned this before when giving her parliamentary reply.

Earlier this week, in a different statement, human settlements ministry issued a statement in which it said Sisulu "distance[d] herself from a R10m spending incurred by the department on gifts, donations and sponsorships in the 2013/14 financial year as she was not the political head at the time.

"She only joined the Department in July 2014," it said.

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