On Thursday afternoon The Citizen ran an article based on a video clip from HuffPost SA in which Winnie Madikizela-Mandela speculated that journalists at the Weekly Mail, which at that time was edited by Anton Harber, were used to further the efforts of Stratcom, the apartheid government’s propaganda agency.
That article and a follow-up article about it have since been taken down from our site on the basis that neither Harber nor the journalist who was named by Madikizela-Mandela, Thandeka Gqubule, were given any chance to comment on Madikizela-Mandela’s allegations prior to publication.
The journalist in question wrote the article based on the mistaken assumption that Madikizela-Mandela had made the comments in the award-winning documentary Winnie, but that proved not to be the case. The comments actually came from an interview HuffPost SA did with Madikizela-Mandela in June 2017.
The original source of the article, HuffPost SA, took down their clip earlier on Friday and issued an apology to Harber and Gqubule for having published it without seeking comment from them first.
They explained that the clip had been part of a range of video clips repurposed from their old interview after Madikizela-Mandela died and they “decided to remove it from our platforms because Gqubule and Harber’s comments were not included”.
HuffPost added that Gqubule and Harber “are journalists who have reputations for being honest and principled”.
They said they had “begun internal procedures to determine how the clip was published and will be taking action based on our findings”.
In a similar light, The Citizen acted without due care when republishing the same content, albeit for different reasons.
Our article was published on the mistaken assumption that Madikizela-Mandela’s comments were from the well-established and far older documentary, instead of being new information that only recently entered the public domain through HuffPost.
As a result, our article was not in line with our editorial policy, was published without clarity that the allegations were in fact without factual basis, and nor did we attempt to verify the accusations or provide the appropriate context.
It is commonly held knowledge that the Weekly Mail was one of the most outspoken anti-apartheid newspapers, which exposed Stratcom and other apartheid security activities, and The Citizen has never had any reason to believe otherwise, nor to doubt the credentials and bona fides of Weekly Mail journalists.
We therefore apologise unreservedly to Gqubule and Harber for our editorial oversight.