In an interview on Power FM, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) journalism professor Anton Harber said recent allegations about Tiso Blackstar journalist Ranjeni Munusamy at the commission of inquiry into state capture raise concerns about “brown envelope journalism”.
“As the journalism profession, we are very concerned about what we call brown envelope journalism – journalists taking incentives, bribes, payments in one sort or another – from the many people who would like to corrupt and win over the support of journalists,” Harber said.
Hawks officer Colonel Kobus Roelofse alleged on Wednesday at the commission that Munusamy received R143,621.70 from a secret slush fund allegedly used by state security crime intelligence officers, adding that the alleged payments to Munusamy were discovered while investigating corruption claims relating to crime intelligence and Atlantis Motors, a company based in Centurion. She is alleged to have used the money to pay off her car.
“What this shows clearly and importantly if it’s true, is that state security appears to be paying people who were working on Jacob Zuma’s re-election campaign,” said Harber.
Harber said the allegation “has serious implications for [Munusamy’s] position as a journalist”, also expressing the view that she “has always been a partisan, factional journalist”.
“Ranjeni has always been a partisan, factional journalist identifying herself almost very clearly from time to time. So that raises questions about her position as a journalist as well.”
Munusamy was not working as a journalist at the time of the alleged payment, but as a communications consultant, with one of her clients the Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust. She told News24 the allegations are baseless.
“I deny the allegations made against me at the Zondo commission today. They are baseless. I am working with my lawyers to draft a response to the allegations for the commission, with whom I am co-operating fully,” she said.
In a statement, the Tiso Blackstar Group said it noted the seriousness of the allegations, and confirmed that Munusamy, who is currently an associate editor at the publishing company, would be placed on leave pending an investigation.
“We adhere to the doctrine of presumption of innocence until proven guilty and the principles of natural justice that include hearing both sides of the story.
“However, we have granted her special leave considering the gravity of these allegations.
“The editor of the Sunday Times, Bongani Siqoko, commenced with internal investigations on Wednesday as soon as the commission notified Munusamy of these allegations.
“The company also notes that Munusamy was not engaged by Tiso Blackstar Group or any of its titles or/and companies during the period covered by these allegations, and the company was unaware of any investigation involving Munusamy at the time she was engaged as an independent contractor.
The company says it will make a final decision on Munusamy’s fate following the internal investigation, “taking into consideration the company’s interests, its policies and Munusamy’s rights”.
The full interview with Harber can be listened to below, courtesy of Power FM.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)