The African National Congress (ANC) says it is “heartened” by Gwede Mantashe’s denial of bribery allegations against him.
In addition to being Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Mantashe is also ANC National Chairperson.
In a statement issued by spokesperson Pule Mabe on Tuesday, the party said it welcomed Mantashe’s statement refuting the allegations.
‘Unethical and criminal conduct’
The party said, “In keeping with its commitment to safeguard the integrity of the media and to defend media freedom, the ANC is heartened by the fact that Comrade Mantashe has assured the nation that he was never involved in such an unethical and criminal conduct with journalists.
“Bribing journalists is not only criminal and unethical, it is also inconsistent with the values of the ANC.”
The ANC said it “has neither a policy nor culture of buying journalists” and reiterated its support for media freedom and independence.
Over the weekend, Sunday World published comments attributed to Mantashe in which he reportedly admitted to paying two journalists a total of R70,000 to quash a blesser story involving him.
He reportedly said, “Two journalists from your publication called me for the same story. So, you are the third person to call me for the same story. Do you also want money? I paid them and now you are calling about the same story.”
Mantashe denies allegations
However, through his chief of staff Moferefere Lekorotsoana, Mantashe denied paying any journalists money.
Lekorotsoana said in a statement on Tuesday, “The statement attributed to him seems to have created an impression of him being involved in the act of bribery. Mr Mantashe is clear that none of the sort occurred.”
Sunday World editor Makhudu Sefara however insists that the publication stands by its story, adding that he recorded his conversation with Mantashe.
He said, “Mr Mantashe, in very clear terms, told me that he paid the reporter’s colleagues. If Mr Mantashe is so convinced that we misquoted him, and implicated him in criminal conduct, as the editor, I challenge him to sue us. He must go to court.”
In an interview with 702 on Tuesday afternoon, Lekorotsoana attempted to clarify the minister’s denial.
“The minister’s version is that he didn’t pay any journalists to bury a story. The reality is that he may have made those claims, but the actual fact is that he didn’t pay any journalist. It hasn’t been proven that he has paid anyone and no one has come out to say, ‘Yes the minister has paid me,'” he explained.