O’Sullivan’s Threat: Economic Warfare Or Fight For Justice?


By Pinky Khoabane

STATE CAPTURE, the buzz word that has come to haunt many. Radio and television talk-show host JJ Tabane, a now staunch critic of former President Jacob Zuma, was the first to fall when it was discovered he had worked on a project for former Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, who is seen as part of State Capture. Tabane’s shows on PowerFM radio and SABC TV were canned. Then it was former Finance Minister, who was found to have lied about meeting the Guptas. It didnt matter whether he had done anything wrong but the fact that he had met the Guptas was enough to have him lose his job. Nene’s possible conflict of interest in the matter of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), on whose board he sat when his son’s business partner was offered a loan, was a more serious case but it didnt matter. It didnt even matter much that he lied about meeting the Guptas, it was the fact that he had met them that enraged the lynch mob. The Guptas are central to the state capture narrative and it was enough for him to lose his job.

McCarthyism at play much

Last week, so-called forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan accused the Sunday Times of “State Capture” and threatened to embark on a campaign to have advertisers pull out of the newspaper if the newspaper didn’t retract a series of stories, spanning over two years, that it had published.  He demanded “for retractions, apologies, handing back of the award and distancing yourselves from the two journalists in question”. If this isn’t economic warfare then I don’t know what is. It is simply unbelievable that this threat to which the Sunday Times capitulated, is met with absolute silence. When are those aggrieved by newspapers allowed to launch economic sanctions against the said media house in order to attain what they want? Why didn’t O’Sullivan use the Press Ombudsman, the courts, and appeal for an open commission of enquiry into the press in general and those stories in particular?

The Sunday Times in 2016 apologised for lying to the public on the SARS Rogue Unit. It said large portions of what it wrote then were factual. And yet, in this week, it conceded to have lied completely seemingly, and capitulated to O’Sullivan’s demands it return the awards and the money that came with them and distance itself from the journalists. With the exception of Piet Rampedi, who was among the journalists who wrote these stories, and he left the Sunday Times shortly after the newly appointed editor at the time, Bongani Siqoko, offered the part retraction. Rampedi, whose full resignation letter we carry today, is adamant that this was a trade-off between SARS and Sunday Times.

Mzilikazi Wa Afrika and Stephan Hofstatter have seemingly left quietly, it’s not clear when. But it seems with the pressure from O’Sullivan. Siqoko, after two years, has seemingly awoken to the fact that he had lied 100% and abided by O’Sullivan’s demands.

Frankly there was a time when threatening the media as O’Sullivan did to the Sunday Times was not done, and those who dared would have received the wrath of protectors of democracy.

I know the “unlawfulness” of the existence of Rogue unit was false. I have seen the documents that former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel set it up and it was lawful in the sense of having gone through proper channels. I wrote a piece asking the Sunday Times to withdraw the allegations of “unlawfulness” to the the unit.

I still cannot understand how an investigative unit which included more than four individuals could not have foreseen it was being “manipulated”.

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