Paper stands ground in R1 billion lawsuit threat

The Sunday Independent is standing by its article about a multi-million rand tender which has led to a threat of a R1 billion defamation lawsuit.

“I stand by the story and by my reporter, who was thorough and meticulous in researching and sourcing the story, and was equally careful in his writing,” deputy editor Japhet Ncube said in a statement on Wednesday.

“I consider it our duty to bring to the public’s attention details of an SIU [Special Investigating Unit] probe of a major government tender. We will fulfil that duty without fear or favour, regardless of who is involved.”

Businessman Robert Gumede threatened to sue the newspaper, Ncube, and reporter Mogomotsi Magome over an article published on March 2 headlined “ANC funder probed”.

The report claimed that Gumede’s JSE-listed IT firm Gijima was the subject of an investigation authorised by President Jacob Zuma.

The report alleged that Zuma signed a proclamation for the SIU to probe the R360m tender awarded by the rural development department to Gumede’s company.

“Mr Gumede and his company are entitled to fair treatment and have a right to take any remedial steps they wish if they feel unfairly treated in any way,” said Ncube.

“For our part, we welcome scrutiny of our work and respect all the processes of review that apply to the work of journalists and newspapers, up to and including the courts.”

Ncube said since the threat, he had re-examined the article to ensure there were no mistakes.

“I am satisfied that the story stands up to the most detailed scrutiny to which a news story can reasonably be subjected.

“The story met the highest standards for researching and compiling sensitive investigative pieces, and passed our own internal checking and approval procedures.”

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Paper stands ground in R1 billion lawsuit threat