Communications minister Dina Pule will not apologise to the Sunday Times, her department said on Friday.
“For the record, minister Pule has not apologised to the Sunday Times, and has no intention to do so,” department spokesman Siyabulela Qoza said in a statement.
He was responding to an article published in the newspaper on 5 May that less than 24 hours after Pule held a news conference about a smear campaign against her, she sent her lawyer to apologise to the journalists involved.
Attorney Ronnie Bokwa allegedly told the newspaper Pule’s right-hand man, deputy director-general Themba Phiri, contacted him on the day of the news conference to broker an “armistice”.
“He told me things were placed in the public space by the minister that should not have been placed in the public domain… We have wronged the Sunday Times,” Bokwa was quoted as saying.
Qoza said the individuals mentioned in the article did not represent Pule.
“The Sunday Times even went further, to allege that one of the individuals concerned is minister Pule’s lawyer. This is false,” he said.
“Sunday Times editors foolishly published the story without even checking the facts. Shockingly, the Sunday Times reported about this without even seeking a response from minister Pule on the specific allegations.”
Qoza said Pule did not ask anyone to represent her.
Sunday Times editor Phylicia Oppelt defended the story. “We stand by our story,” she said in an e-mail. “Ronnie Bokwa, an attorney who is known to us, told us explicitly that he represented minister Dina Pule.”
Oppelt said Bokwa had invited them to talk in a room at the Intercontinental Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg, which was booked in the minister’s name. “A senior official in her department, deputy director-general Themba Phiri, joined us,” she said.
“Phiri apologised on behalf of the minister for her inability to join us. She [Pule] now seems to suggest that Bokwa and Phiri were on a frolic of their own.”
At the press conference on 22 April, Pule claimed the newspaper wrote a series of articles about her as part of a smear and blackmail campaign.
She alleged that business people linked to the newspaper had a vested interest in trying to secure a multibillion-rand set-top-box tender and were willing to do anything to get it.
Set-top-boxes are required for the move from analogue to digital TV broadcasting.
Pule said high-profile business people and politicians tried to force her into making decisions in their favour.
She detailed several stories written about her which, she claimed, sought to project her as a corrupt minister who could be bribed with a pair of shoes.
She also allegedly gave tenders to a boyfriend, meddled in tender processes, and interfered in the appointment of officials to the boards of state-owned enterprises. — Sapa