Businessman Robert Gumede on Wednesday accused Mail & Guardian journalist Sam Sole of corruption after receiving questions from the newspaper’s investigations team.
Gumede, an executive chairman of the Guma Group and nonexecutive chairman of IT group Gijima, appeared on SABC’s evening television news with a receipt showing that Sole received a R900 payment from his former business partner and adversary John Sterenborg to allegedly expose him as a corrupt businessman.
Sterenborg has been engaged in protracted legal battles with Gumede over the dissolution of their association in smart-card company Applied Card Technologies, in which the SA businessman invested.
Gumede also produced copies of flight tickets receipts paid for by Sterenborg for Sole.
This was after the newspaper sent Gumede questions last week with regards to two payments of R50 000 made by him in 2004, using his wife’s bank account.
He was given until this Wednesday to respond following a request through his lawyers to give him more time to do so.
However, M&G editor Nic Dawes on Wednesday said Gumede had launched an attack against the newspaper and two of its journalists, Sole and Adriaan Basson, before responding to the questions posed to him.
“The tone of Mr Gumede’s attack is hysterical and exaggerated,” Dawes said in a statement.
“He is seeking to portray our investigation as driven by malice and as a personal vendetta against an innocent citizen — It is not,” he said.
“Mr Gumede makes much of a payment of R900 made to Sam Sole by John Sterenborg in June 2001,” Dawes said.
Dawes said the facts of the payment that Gumede was referring to were related to an incident that occurred while Sole worked for Noseweek some years back.
“The editor of Noseweek, Mr Martin Welz, reached an agreement with Mr Sterenborg that Mr Sterenborg would cover the cost of Sam Sole flying from Durban to Johannesburg to hear Mr Sterenborg’s story, given that Noseweek could not afford such expenses on a speculative journey,” he said.
“This was Mr Welz’s decision not Mr Sole’s. In the end Mr Sole paid for the ticket and was reimbursed by Mr Sterenborg and this payment constituted no benefit to Sole,” Dawes said.
He said Sterenborg’s then story, which included allegations about Gumede, was not backed by sufficient evidence and as a result it was never written or published by Noseweek.
“The attempt by Mr Gumede to portray this as ‘bribery’ or ‘corruption’ is simply unsustainable,” said Dawes.
“If Mr Gumede’s pre-emptive attack is an attempt to censor the M&G, it will fail,” he said.
Gumede has since filed complaints with the press ombudsman, the press appeals panel and the chairperson of SA National Editors’ Forum. — Sapa