"When a man has nothing left, all he can do is to protect his name. You may have everything in the world, but if you don't have a good reputation, there is no point."
These are the words of axed MEC for sports, arts and culture in the Free State, Dan Kgothule, who claims there was a vendetta against him and he needed to clear his name before people started speculating.
Kgothule sued The Weekly newspaper, which falls under the controversial Letlaka Communications & Marketing, for R250 000 for defamation of character. The alleged state-owned local newspaper published an article in August 2010 during Kgothule's term as MEC, claiming, among other things, that senior staff had complained about his behaviour, that Macufe showed no profit under his leadership, the 2010 World Cup had been mismanaged and that the Mmabana Cultural Centre and Pacofs were in chaos.
Kgothule, along with Sibongile Tsoeleli, an ANC member of national parliament who was chairperson of the education, sports and culture portfolio committee for the Free State Legislature when Kgothule was MEC, and Danny Moleko, former arts and culture director at the Free State department of sports, arts and culture, were cross-examined during the trial at the Bloemfontein High Court recently. The judgement of the case was dismissed with costs.
"I'm not interested in money. Money is the root of many problems. Some people buy positions, but some of us didn't join the ANC for positions. If you read the article, you can see that the paper was out to get me," he said.
Kgothule said he had helped Letlaka Communications & Marketing owner, Tumi Ntsele, to start his newspaper from scratch by introducing him to relevant people such as Premier Ace Magashule. He said things got sour between them when his department stopped advertising in Ntsele's newspaper.
"When a department advertises in a local newspaper, we compare prices and the department I was heading had a small budget. When we compared quotations, they were three times higher than other local newspapers."
Kgothule revealed to Bloemfontein Courant that National Treasury allegedly reported that Letlaka Communications & Marketing had apparently attained business with the provincial government wrongfully and was instructed to return all the money that it benefited from the government.
"People who have power through media want to force you to give them business and if you don't, this is the type of thing they do. You see, I have morals. Local newspapers survive on advertisements. The Weekly is 100% funded by governmental adverts. Since it didn't get adverts from my department, this is how the paper reacted," he added.
"If Ntsele had lost, he would have appealed to the highest court in the country and by that time I would not have been able to defend myself and they would have gotten rid of me. I knew that I wouldn't be an MEC for another term and that I would have been taken out. They had said it a long time ago.
"Editor Sphiwe Mboyane was then called by the legislature's portfolio committee for sports, arts and culture and he undertook to retract all the things he had written about me in that particular newspaper… which never happened," revealed Kgothule.
"It is unfortunate that Mboyane passed away, because he came up with information about the actual person who had written that story. When you work with somebody, you are familiar with their style of writing and you can determine who wrote it. Mboyane said he had nothing personal against me and confessed that he didn't write the story. He gave me the name of the person who wrote it and said he had no power to do anything about it, as he was just an employee," he explained.
Kgothule remains a full ANC member, even though he has been accused of allegedly funding the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
"I am a member of the ANC, but maybe they know something that I don't and can tell. A certain female MEC once questioned my membership at a meeting in Bethlehem and I was blocked from being part of that gathering. To be very open and honest with you, Magashule and I come a long way, but I don't want to get deeper into that. Maybe we have arrived at the end of that road. I have made peace with it; it is not an issue as Magashule doesn't owe me anything, and I also don't owe him a thing.
"I have spent 29 years of my life in the ANC. With all those responsibilities, it is not surprising that the ANC is quiet and haven't contacted me ever since I left government. If you are accused of funding the EFF, it is a very serious allegation that necessitates a person to be expelled from the organisation, but they chose to be quiet. They knew all those things were lies and it was a ploy to destroy me and get rid of me."
Response from The Weekly
"At the outset, and after studying the judgment, I would like to reiterate the fact that our client is satisfied with the result of the defamation suit instituted by Mr (Dan) Kgothule against The Weekly. I would also like to record that our client has no intention of addressing the slanderous and unfounded allegations which Kgothule appears to have relayed to you. These allegations are untested and our client is of the intention to institute a civil claim of his own against Kgothule for the allegations which he continues to make against particularly Ntsele. These allegations, we believe, do not warrant any further publication as they have been previously published and they will be tested in the appropriate forum at the appropriate time. The advice given to our client is accordingly not to respond to allegations of this nature at this time. We also have no intention to respond to any allegations relating to Ntsele personally, or to the personal relationship between Ntsele and Kgothule," said Ntsele's lawyer, Barry Jones.
Jones, on behalf of Ntsele, further denied allegations that some stories published in The Weekly have allegedly not been written by the journalist whose name appeared in the story's byline. Ntsele's legal team said that he has no knowledge of the alleged directive from National Treasury that revealed that Letlaka Communications & Marketing had attained business from the provincial government wrongfully and they were instructed to return the money that they benefited from. Jones said that The Weekly is not 100% funded by the provincial government.
"If the judgment went against my client we would have considered the reasons for Judge Albert Kruger reaching his conclusion, before deciding whether to appeal or not. As the case stands, however, the judgment, which we believe was a well-reasoned judgment and which is aligned with modern jurisprudence, is in favour of our client and we do not deem it necessary to speculate to the contrary," said Jones. – Refilwe Gaeswe