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Ombudsman Rules On Musa

Musa Capital (MC) lodged a complaint with the Press Ombudsman’s office about a story in the Sunday World, published on January 16 headlined “Musa Capital offices raided for missing R700m”

The story, written by Andile April, said officials from Financial Services Board and forensic experts from PWC (an accounting and consulting firm) acted on a court order and “raided” MC’s head office after MC was accused of ripping off the Bakubung-ba-Ratheo of about R700m.

We quoted a source who said the investigators spent the entire day scrutinizing documents in search of the Bakubung tribe’s money and added that MC’s offices “were being torn apart”. Deputy Press Ombudsman Johan Retief said in his finding that this story “could only have caused MC unnecessary and serious harm” and that it even “has the potential to ruin its future”.

He reprimanded us for:

  • Using one anonymous source only, without verification and without mentioning this fact in the story (breaching Art. 1.4 of the Press Code);
  • The use of the word “raid”, the allegation that MC was accused of ripping off the Bakubung for about R700m, the phrase “Musa Capital Zambia Limited” and for stating “This was not done” (regarding the provision of all relevant bank accounts and an explanation of the monetization process);

•Reporting inaccurately and/or unfairly (breaching Art. 1.1 of the Code) with regards to the word “raid”, the reference to the “missing R700m” and the sentence “This was not done”; and

•Stating someone’s view as a fact (breaching Art. 1.3 of the Code) with its use of the word “raid”.

He also reprimanded us for using the unverified words “raided” and “missing R700m” in the headline.

Retief said that using an anonymous person as the only source for a story “is more than dubious. The Press Code clearly states that, when there is reason to doubt the accuracy of a story, it shall be verified and if it has not been practicable to verify, it shall be stated in the story”.

He dismissed the complaint regarding the use of the word/phrase “confidentiality”, “an alphabet puzzle of companies”, “cross-border transactions” and “ordered” (to provide all relevant bank accounts and an explanation of the monetisation process), saying that our reportage regarding these issues was factually correct.

He also dismissed the complaint that MC provided our journalist with relevant information that he omitted in the story.

  • We apologise to Musa Capital for the unnecessary and serious harm that we caused the company.
  • Visit www.presscouncil.org.za (rulings, 2011) for the full finding.
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