M&G political editor sacked for breaching code of ethics

(Supplied)
(Supplied)

The Mail & Guardian on Wednesday confirmed that its political editor Matuma Letsoalo's employment has been terminated.

According to a report published on its online platform, Letsoalo was found to have breached the publication's code of ethics following disciplinary proceedings.

"The termination follows an independent investigation done into allegations of a conflict of interest. The M&G followed the recommendations of the investigator, by instituting a disciplinary hearing during which Letsoalo had legal representation," the report reads.

News24 in October reported on Letsoalo's suspension while an independent investigation was conducted into allegations of a conflict of interest with the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

The publication had made the decision to suspend Letsoalo ahead of the release of the results of an investigation by Werksmans Attorneys into tenders awarded by Prasa.

Letsoalo was a director of Kgomomorareng Travel when it was allegedly awarded an irregular tender in 2010.

At the time, the M&G said Werksmans concluded that the joint venture "did not submit a bid and should not therefore have been considered for the tender, let alone awarded same".

"While the initial tender was for the venture to receive a commission based on a percentage of what it booked, this was changed to a set amount of R350 000 [per] month. Werksmans concluded: 'The amendment of their appointment (and particularly the fixed monthly fee payment) negotiated and agreed to by Prasa favours the supplier to Prasa's detriment, financially and operationally.'"

Confidential investigation

Letsoalo left the company in 2012, but his wife is still involved.

According to the publication, he had been an M&G employee since 2003.

Letsoalo was investigated by the M&G in 2016 after he had commissioned an article on Prasa in July that year which mentioned the cost of the Werksmans investigation into irregularities at Prasa.

After an internal investigation, then editor Verashni Pillay found that Letsoalo had not breached the publication's editorial code and that he had disclosed his past and his wife's continued involvement with Kgomomorareng Travel.

He could, however, no longer report on Prasa to avoid a conflict of interest.

"Werksmans had asked the M&G to keep the investigation confidential, and no formal charges were laid. There was also no evidence that Letsoalo's business involvement with Prasa had in any way influenced the reporting on the utility."

A decision was then made not to take the issue any further.

The publication in October said that no new evidence had come to light to change this conclusion.

With the Werksmans report in its final stages at the time, the M&G decided to suspend Letsoalo to "allow a further, independent investigation to be conducted" to look at whether any ethical transgressions took place, and if any further action needed to be taken.

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