A South African newspaper settled a lawsuit today filed by a mayor who disliked how he was portrayed in an infographic last summer.
Last August, City Press — a nationally-distributed English-language Sunday paper — ran a story about how national and local officials work together to extend government-funded work — called “tenders” over there — to companies with ties to those officials.
The particular city shown in the graphic was Polokwane, in the province of Limpopo, northeast of Johannesburg and Pretoria. The national leader featured in the graphic was Julius Malema, former leader of the ANC Youth League, a politically powerful arm of the African National Congress, the party that’s governed South Africa since the first democratic election in 1994. Malema was convicted of hate speech twice in two years and then found guilty of causing a rift in the ANC itself. He was expelled from the party for five years. Last month, he was charged with fraud and money laundering.
Here’s the graphic. Click for a larger view:
The mayor who sued? He’s the guy shown at the extreme lower left.
The graphic “was intended to show the network of power,” City Press editor Ferial Haffajee told South African wire service SAPA, and not to accuse the mayor of actual corruption or abuse of power. SAPA quotes Ferial as saying:
Mr. Greaver started off by suing the newspaper for R15 million. We agreed to apologise and settled at R100,000.
We never meant to implicate Greaver as corrupt and I have learned that when you publish a graphic image, you need to add explanatory text.
In this case, perhaps, what we in the U.S. might think of as “qualifiers.”
SAPA reports the paper was ordered Tuesday to pay R100,000 in damages plus court costs, publish an apology this Sunday and give the mayor the right to reply.
- Find the SAPA story about the court decision here.
- Go here to find a collection of stories about the “Limpopo tender” investigation.
- Seems like City Press is always on the cutting edge of some giant political scandal. This week, for instance, government officials are threatening to investigate how the paper got ahold of embarrassing numbers involving upgrades to the president’s home.
- And last May, the paper was denounced by officials after it posted a picture of a painting that some said mocked the president.
- Find the Graphics24 web site here.
Full disclosure: Graphics24, City Press, Ferial Haffajee and their parent company, Media24, are my consulting clients.