CR17 twitter spat between media colleagues ends in death threats, internal complaint


Journalist Oliver Meth has lodged a complaint with Independent Media against his colleague Piet Rampedi over "vile allegations" regarding the work he did for the #CR17 campaign, amid death threats he has received online.

Meth, an employee at Sunday Tribune, wrote to human resources on Monday to lodge a grievance against Rampedi, an investigative editor at the Sunday Independent "in relation to vile allegations he has been spewing on social media about myself".

He believed that Rampedi was guilty of violating the company's social media policy and code of conduct.

In the email, which News24 has seen, Meth said he feared for his life.

"His actions have not only brought the company into disrepute, but [he] has launched a series of attacks, leaving me fearing for my life," he said in the email.

"His accusations against me, which I had been advised by my editor not to respond further to him and the trolls, have caused a sustained attack with some Twitter users threatening to "necklace" me, "teach you a lesson" and with ex-convict Gayton McKenzie, weighing in by tweeting "...we are coming for all of you, mainly you @oliver_meth" among many others intimidating me."

Meth, who has written for Daily Maverick and Daily Vox, openly admitted on his Twitter feed that he was paid for work that he did for the Cyril Ramaphosa campaign.

"I'd like to place on record, that I worked as a media consultant on the campaign and was paid for services rendered, as a freelancer," Meth tweeted over the weekend.

In another tweet, he responded saying: "I was not a practising journalist at a time, but a full time postgraduate student that took on various consultancy work. These attacked [sic] and allegations are unfounded."

News24 reported that the Presidency and officials who ran President Cyril Ramaphosa's 2017 ANC presidential campaign, known as the CR17 campaign, had yet to comment on an explosive leak of bank statements late last week.

The statements, which were widely shared on social media since at least Thursday, show transactions relating to the FNB account of Linkd Environment Services, a Johannesburg company owned by one of the CR17 campaign members, Dr Crispian Olver.

The authenticity of the statements has not been disputed.

Linkd disbursed funds to provincial co-ordinators and service providers used by the CR17 campaign, according to Ramaphosa's response to an interim report by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Meth said in the email to Independent: "During my application, appointment interviews and subsequently signing a contract with you, I have been fully transparent with the company and my colleagues about my previous employment and duties while serving as a freelance media consultant during 2017."

He said accusations that he was a "paid journalist" were thus incorrect and based on slander.

"I feel Piet's public attacks on my character and work ethic as a Journalist, are grounds for a supeana [sic] in relation to his misconduct. I'll elaborate further when I'm afforded the opportunity, soonest, to do so via a formal internal process at Independent Newspapers on this matter."

Asked for comment on the complaint on Monday, Rampedi referred News24 to the tweeted responses he gave to Meth.

Independent Media's group executive for marketing and communication, Lutfia Vayej, confirmed that the company's HR department had received a formal complaint from Meth and said it would be handled internally.

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