The City Press newspaper has been ordered to apologise to IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi for a harmful comment in a column, the Press Ombudsman ruled on Friday.
Inkatha Freedom Party secretary general Sibongile Nkomo, on behalf of Buthelezi, complained about the “Siyahleba” column headlined “The weird world of politics: tell no lies” in the January 11 edition.
He complained that the column implied Buthelezi had not participated in the liberation struggle, that he had not heard of a quote by Guinea-Bissauan revolutionary and socialist leader Amilcar Cabral, and that he had sought credit for the success of many isi-Zulu speaking leaders.
He also complained that the column inaccurately stated that Buthelezi had claimed in his newsletter that the least certain leaders could do was to thank him.
Nkomo said the column stirred up animosity against Buthelezi, declared political bias, threatened his integrity and character, and cast doubt on the truthfulness and value of his work.
Part of the column stated: “Despite his claim to have participated in the struggle, IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi has still not heard of Amilcar Cabral’s quote: ‘Tell no lies, claim no easy victories’.”
Ombudsman Johan Retief ruled that the column left little doubt that it actually did question his participation in the struggle.
However, it was the newspaper’s right to have an opinion and to voice that opinion in a column.
On the quote, Retief said the columnist was not recording history but voicing an opinion.
The ombudsman upheld the complaint about the allegation that Buthelezi wanted certain people — business and political leaders, working journalists, analysts and academics — to say “thank you Mtwana” for their education under the IFP-led KwaZulu-Natal government.
City Press editor Dumisane Lubisi argued that the phrase in dispute was not presented as fact, but rather as a comment and interpretation.
“Lubisi’s argument does not hold water — the phrase was indeed presented as fact,” Retief ruled.
He found no evidence in the newsletter of Buthelezi making such a statement.
“Even satire needs some shred of truth with which to mock. I can only agree with Buthelezi that this needless and unfounded statement did unnecessarily portray him as petulant, causing unnecessary harm to his reputation.”
The IFP’s complaint was dismissed, save for the statement that Buthelezi asked for a word of thanks.
City Press was directed to apologise to Buthelezi for the mistake on the same page as the original column and on its website.
Either party has seven working days to apply for leave to appeal the ombudsman’s findings.