Sunday, October 14, 2018


Dear Bongani Siqoko,  

Editor of the Sunday Advertiser aka Sunday Times,
          I feel terribly sorry for you. They take you from that piddling little Daily Dispatch (Circulation 25 000) in East London (population260 000) and make you Editor of the country’s top selling national paper, the Sunday Times (Circ. 260 000) that operates out of Johannesburg, our biggest city (pop.1-million). That was at the end of 2015.
          Ever since then you have been the face of record breaking Sunday Times apologies.
You were just getting into the hot seat in December 2015, when the Press Ombudsman gave you his Christmas and Welcome to the Sunday Times present. It was his ruling that the ‘rogue unit’ expose` about the SA Revenue Service (SARS) was rubbish. It had been running for months and he order that your new paper must retract everything and apologise in writing.
          One has to wonder what really went on here. Pearlie Joubert, a member of your paper’s investigative team at the time, says she was isolated when she began to question what was going on. What was the motive for ignoring the very perceptive alarm bell she was ringing? Could it have been something more than just a front page lead?
          When she could not get her message through, she very bravely resigned.
          She’s was the real hero of that disgraceful chapter in the history, of a once proud newspaper. What she did is actually the front page lead for next week, but of course you will never print it.
The REAL HERO Pearlie Joubert: She's laughing here
but it was no joke on the Sunday Times
          Did you know at the time that you were being brought right across the country just to be thrown among the Great Whites, without a cage, almost straight away? Soon afterwards you had to explain that whole page apology that appeared in April 2016.
          At the time your appointment was announced Andrew Bonamour, Times Media (Now Tiso Blackstar – the Group changes it’s name more often than a chameleon changes colour) CEO had this to say about the outgoing editor Phylicia Oppelt, under whose watch these lies occurred: “We are delighted that Phylicia will remain with the group and help drive the exiting changes across the titles.”
          What?  Just when she had so completely messed up. Why wasn’t she asked to explain how it happened, instead of you, in that whole page apology? And where is she now - still driving “those exiting changes?”
          Today I see you are at it again, apologising once more for cock-ups that occurred even before Oppelt was the Editor. Now it’s all about the 2011 Police “death squad” lies that appeared when Ray Hartley was the Editor.
          These, as you say, “created the impression that Gen Johan Booysen was operationally in charge of the unit, and by association directly and personally responsibly for the killings.”
          Only a trivial libel that just happened to be completely untrue.

          You gave Booysen a lot of space to have his say. Unfortunately this shows how meaningless these apologies of yours are, if your paper and other sections of the Tiso Group go on employing the same journalists, who have proved conclusively that they can be relied upon to get it wrong in a big way.
          The scribes mentioned in the bylines on the stories you are apologising for now are Stephan Hofstatter, Mzilikazi wa Africa and Rob Rose.

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Breaking News

            In having his say Booysen told us that he had to contact the Editor Hartley to “demand to be heard” to give his side of the story, when that’s one of the basics of journalism that every cub reporter gets told: Always get both sides of the story.
            Hofstatter then comes to see him and they had a recorded teleconference with Wa Africa. Booysen tells them that the photographs they had of dead suspects had nothing to do with the story they are doing. He also told them that he knew their “sources” and that they were being investigated by the Hawks.
          Undeterred your ace investigators “evidently made no effort to verify the facts with the institutions” Booysen had referred them to. “Instead the versions of the suspects under investigation were published,” Booysen went on.
          This Don’t let the facts spoil a good story team then ensured that the gruesome pictures of the bodies appeared with their story when, as Booysen had told them, they had absolutely nothing to do with it.
How brainless was that?  These were supposed to be senior journalists behaving like naughty kids. 
Your apology today, which is full of excuses, loses any value it might have because you have including something that is clearly not true. What good is there in saying Sorry for our lies and then explain why with another one.
“We were in pursuit of nothing but the truth and we were not motivated by political, commercial or personal interests,” you told readers. “We stood to gain nothing from reporting on these issues, but merely fulfilling our constitutional obligation to inform you”(Isn't "were" missing somewhere?).
What a lot of guff. Is the Sunday Times now a charity? Does it not need money to exist? Your paper was purely motivated by getting exclusive, sensational stories that increase readership and the profits that flow from that.
I know we are supposed to have a very good constitution, but I can’t find the section that says newspapers have a duty to inform us. It’s probably just me. I can’t see for looking.
Bongani, I accept that you can’t be blamed for the fictitious scoops that appeared before your time, but some odd things have happened while you’ve been in charge.
For a start how can you still have Wa Africa doing investigations for your paper and having regular front page leads?  He should have been bowled out as soon as it was apparent that the police death squad story was rotten to the core.
He was still there after Jacques Pauw’s book The President’s Keepers came out in October 2017.  In the book he accused Hofstatter and Wa Africa of “Helping Zuma’s keepers to destroy the finest law enforcement institution in the country.” He was talking about a group of people in SARS who lost their jobs as a result of the “rogue unit,” to which your paper gave credence to.
There’s perhaps a follow up book for him: The Rogue Unit at the Sunday Times – the inside story.
The Terrible Twins - Hofstatter & Wa Afrika
Then too you should have known that freelance Jim Jones was a crook when the Business Times, your business section, continued to use him.(love affair with a crook)  You were also very much in charge when that whole page, paid African National Congress anti Democratic Alliance plug, masquerading as a news story, appeared.(dropping moral standards)
I know you don’t decide these things but the management of your group must also be censored for making Rob Rose the Editor of the Financial Mail and keeping  Hofstatter on reporting for the this publication and Business Day. His excuse for going astray was that they were “under pressure for scoops.” This is the life of every reporter, so imagine what it would be like if they all come up with fairytales.

Both Rose and Hofstatter have written allegedly factual books about shady goings on. One has to wonder now, how much of these are actually fiction.
Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman, who tries to keep his factual fiction to a minimum. I must add that my only motive in writing this blog is to put the world right without any thought of being rewarded.

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