The Department of Communications has accused the Sunday Times newspaper of prosecuting Minister Dina Pule in a “public court of opinion”.
Speaking to journalists at the department’s headquarters in Pretoria today, Wisani Ngobeni, the department’s spokesperson, said Pule would not be pressurised into responding to allegations published by the newspaper, as doing so would undermine two investigations that are currently underway.
Ngobeni’s statement comes at the back of a string of reports by the Sunday Times accusing Pule of corruption and irregularities in relation to appointments made by her department and her department’s handling of the ICT Indaba that she hosted last year.
“The Department of Communications has noted with concern the continued peddling of slander and salacious rumours by the Sunday Times in what appears to be a desperate attempt to convict Minister Pule in the court of public opinion,” Ngobeni said. “The sacrosanct principle of innocent until proven must be upheld at all times.”
Central to the reports are claims that Pule is romantically linked to businessman Phosane Mngqibisa, and that the man – whom she has since described as “just a comrade” she knows – had taken over the control of her department, and engineered the appointments of Mngqibisa’s friends to the boards of parastatals under her watch.
Last month, Pule called an urgent media briefing at which she said that despite what she viewed as a “smear campaign” by businessmen with interests in state tenders to blackmail her, she believed that investigations that are currently underway would vindicate her. She also announced that she would report the Sunday Times to the Press Ombudsman.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and the Parliamentary Ethics Committee are both conducting investigations into most of the allegations contained in the Sunday Times reports.
In a latest report, the paper claimed it had a trail of documents showing that during her official trip to Mexico in 2009, Pule invited Mngqibisa to accompany her and listed him as her “companion”.
Ngobeni said the department would not respond to the report due to on-going investigations. He also said the latest story contained old allegations that the Sunday Times was trying to “recycle”.
He also said he would not express a view on documents that the paper referred to as the department has no record of such documents.
“We are unable to express a view on documents which we do not have knowledge of.
“For the record, the department wishes to reiterate that none of the allegations levelled against minister Pule will stick.
“In their Twitter account on Saturday, the Sunday Times boldly stated: ‘She [Pule] is not off the hook yet’.
“We think that these kinds of statements are devoid of any objectivity, which is a significant principle of a journalist’s profession.” – SAnews.gov.za