Wealthy businessman Robert Gumede’s lawyer Nicqui Galaktiou responded to a report in City Press today by defending the spending of her client, his long and close relationship with the ruling party and his “passion” for Mpumalanga, where he was born. She said she would take legal action for any “defamatory and unsubstantiated allegations/insinuations against Mr Gumede”.
(Update: Nicqui Galaktiou has asked that the above statement be clarified: She wrote to The Citizen saying: “This statement is incorrect. We did not inform the City Press that we would take immediate legal action following the report on Sunday. In fact we informed the City Press on Saturday, 18 June 2016 prior to publication, that should an article be published containing defamatory and unsubstantiated allegations, action would then be taken. Your statement is misleading and we request that you correct same. Notwithstanding that you refer to a quote in the second paragraph of the article, it does not clear up the untrue allegation and inference made in the first paragraph”).
The paper published the threat under its report today (Sunday).
It had sent Gumede a copy of the report (update: Galaktiou has responded with the assertion that City Press did not send Mr Gumede a copy of the report and nor was Mr Gumede provided with a copy of the article prior to publication. In fact the only contact made with Mr Gumede was one text sent to him on Friday evening, which came to his attention on Saturday morning, the day the paper went to print. The City Press was well aware that they intended publishing this article as they had already communicated with the office of the Honourable Premier on Wednesday, 15 June 2016 but failed to contact Mr Gumede timeously (a further contravention of the Press Code) and to afford Mr Gumede a reasonable opportunity to respond), in which the allegation was made that the businessman appears to be “the only entrepreneur who accompanies the Mpumalanga provincial government on investment-seeking expeditions internationally”.
This has reportedly upset other businessmen in the province and been a cause for concern for opposition political parties.
City Press reported that, among these trips, was one to Angola last month, where Gumede met up with his “close friend” Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza, where he signed “a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in agriculture, forestry, tourism, nature conservation, trade and investment.
Gumede donated “10 Ford Ranger double-cab bakkies, four buses and 20 iPads” to the ANC in Mpumalanga last week, along with R6.5 million to the ANC itself. He also tarred 6km of road in Lekazi township.
The premier’s spokesperson, Zibonele Mncwango, made a statement to City Press (correction: the original version of this article mistakenly attributed the statement to Mr Gumede’s spokesperson) that Gumede was in Angola “on his own” and did not acknowledge that he had intended to be there at the same time as a large government delegation. He claimed Gumede had not been invited and had only met the delegation there while on his own business. This suggests he was implying that it was only a coincidence.
City Press remarked that Gumede “has a knack of being in the right place at the right time” when “his his personal friend” Mabuza is on business trips and listed other occasions they had journeyed together on similar trips abroad.
Nafcoc, a business support organisation, said they would also have liked to be invited on such trips, and the DA claimed that the insistence on only including Gumede on official trips abroad was one of the main reasons the province struggled to attract investment. The EFF went as far as to say they would complain about Gumede and Mabuza to the public protector.
It is still not clear whether Gumede will actually sue City Press and on what grounds.