Sat, 25 May 2019

The Press Ombudsman of South Africa, Johan Retief, has directed News24 to apologise to AfriForum for misleadingly stating in a column that the organisation's deputy CEO, Ernst Roets, did not offer a single solution to the issue of land restitution.

Retief dismissed Roets' four other complaints against the same column by News24 assistant editor Pieter du Toit.

The finding is in relation to a column titled "The spectacular unravelling of AfriForum", published after Roets' submission to parliament's constitutional review committee on possible amendments to Section 25 of the Constitution.

The finding against News24 relates to the following statement in Du Toit's column: "They [AfriForum] also offered no solutions, not a single one, about how the issue of land redress can possibly be managed to satisfy the need for justice whilst ensuring agricultural sustainability."

Although Roets did not present any solutions to land reform during his oral submission, he did offer eight solutions in reply to questions from MPs. These are:

There should be proper protection of property rights in South Africa;People should have the opportunity to work for themselves, to work themselves out of poverty, and not be given freebies out of poverty;Restitution must happen, but it must be historically accurate and based on evidence;The education system should be fixed, particularly for black schools;Economic and labour policy must be founded on the freedom to produce, not the freedom to receive free things;Unnecessary government departments should be closed;Title deeds should be given to millions of poor South Africans who live on state-owned land, andWe need to free our minds from the notion of equality of outcome and of cultural relativism.

"I have sympathy with Du Toit in this regard, though, as Roets clearly did not see solutions to the matter as a priority. He had ten minutes for his oral submission, but could not find a few seconds to refer to this vital issue," said Retief in his ruling.

"Be that as it may, because Du Toit commented on proceedings before the committee, he was obliged to at least reflect the fact that Roets did offer some solutions in response to a question - even if he did not do so during his formal presentation."

Retief dismissed the following complaints by Roets:

That Du Toit incorrectly stated he couldn't explain his statement in parliament that white people never "stole land";That Roets grinned while black MPs spoke of their families' experience under apartheid;That News24 manipulated a video of his submission to parliament, andThat our reportage caused him serious reputational damage.

Retief agreed with Du Toit that there was a small smile on Roets' face while an MP spoke about her family's experiences under apartheid and found the complaint about the video edit "has no legs to stand on".

In terms of his reputation, Retief found: "I am not going to blame News24 for causing 'serious reputational damage', as Roets himself - by not finding time to address solutions in his formal presentation - contributed to this 'reputational damage'."

Visit for the full finding.

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