Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has denied paying two Sunday World journalists to make a blesser story disappear.
In a statement early on Tuesday, Mantashe’s chief of staff Moferefere Lekorotsoana disputed Sunday World‘s report of comments attributed to him.
He wrote, “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.”
Lekorotsoana added, “Mr Mantashe, both in his personal capacity and that of being the executive authority, believes in upholding the integrity of the media and media freedom.”
‘R70,000 to two journalists’
In its article, Sunday World published comments it attributed to Mantashe in which he allegedly admits to paying the journalists a total of R70,000.
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.
“I begged them not to write the story. I paid two journalists at your publication. I will not reveal their names. You can ask amongst your colleagues and ask Lerato to tell you their names.”
The tabloid published the story alleging that the minister had been in a blesser relationship with a 26-year-old woman named Lerato Makgatho.
Lekorotsoana’s statement does not make reference to this alleged relationship.
Sunday World stands by story
Despite Mantashe’s denial, Sunday World maintains that it is standing by its story and has challenged the minister to take legal action against it.
Its editor, Makhudu Sefara, said he has a voice record of the conversation with Mantashe, whom he said is now “between a rock and a hard place.”
He said, “We reject the claim by the minister that he never said he paid two journalists. Not only did he say this to the reporter; I as the editor also called him to verify the claims that were in the article before me.
“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.”