Media statement by the KZN Department of Health, on inflammatory claims by independent media and reporter Sihle Mavuso

12 July 2022

THE KwaZulu-Natal Department has noted with extreme concern yet another instance of reckless reporting and malicious conduct by Independent Media and its reporter, Sihle Mavuso.

The matter concerns the awarding of a security tender, which the Auditor-General has sought certain information about, from the Department.

The timing of the article, published under the headline, "Health Department in the spotlight as AG demands answers for tenders awarded irregularly" is most curious, coming as it does on the eve of an important provincial conference of the Governing party.

Mavuso, apparently working with certain rogue elements with nefarious intentions, has taken a normal Request for Information from the Auditor-General to draw dangerous conclusions about this matter "for now", and besmirch the reputation of the Department and those who lead it.

While the information-gathering process is yet to be concluded on this matter, Mavuso has rushed to post on his Twitter account, without any basis whatsoever, that: "The rot and looting of the KZN Department of Health continue (sic) unabated. In preparation for the next audit results, the AG has asked the Department to justify some millions of tenders (sic) irregularly awarded to a security company and an outdoor advertising company."

In response to the media enquiry, the Department pointed out, in writing, that engagements with the AG are ongoing, and that the Department will be able to comment once the AG process has been concluded.

But that has not stopped Independent Media from publishing the article alongside Mavuso's conclusive and inflammatory tweet, making the company and its reporter both player and referee in a still-unfolding matter that ought to be handled objectively.

The behaviour that Independent Media and Mavuso have hitherto betrayed is at odds with their very own internal Press Code, which states that it "wants news to be reported accurately, [and is committed to] the publication of opinions that are based on fact and honestly motivated and reportage that recognises the vulnerable of society and that upholds the laws of South Africa and the Constitution."

It is also contrary to the Press Council's Code of Ethics and Conduct for South African Print and Online Media, which states that the media shall:

"1.1 Take care to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly; 1.2 Present news in context and in a balanced manner, without any intentional or negligent departure from the facts whether by distortion, exaggeration or misrepresentation, material omissions, or summarization."

It is precisely for this reason that, as a Department, we are left with no option but to lodge an official complaint with the Press Council of South Africa (PCSA), as well as Independent Media's own Internal Press Ombudsperson.

We are also weighing other legal options.

ENDS Issued by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health

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