11 January 2018

South Africa: Cape Town Speaker Asks News24 to Disclose Sources

City of Cape Town speaker Dirk Smit has requested News24 to disclose the source of a confidential investigation report into Mayor Patricia de Lille and other senior city staff.

This after News24 published some of the findings of a report by attorneys Bowman Gilfillan this week. The independent investigation was commissioned by council after a series of damaging allegations against top city officials that started surfacing in September last year.

The report implicates De Lille, city manager Achmat Ebrahim and senior transport official Melissa Whitehead.

"No authority has been given for the release of the investigation report at this time, and I must request you to inform me who provided you with the confidential report and to refrain from publishing further information about its contents," Smit wrote in a letter to News24 editor Adriaan Basson.

"The decisions taken by the council at its confidential meeting on 5 January 2018 (including that De Lille should be investigated) were made public, but the confidential investigation report on which these decisions were based remains confidential at this time. The council resolution is in the process of being implemented and it is important that the actions being taken should not be prejudiced by publication of the contents of the confidential report," Smit wrote.

The Bowman Gilfillan report found that De Lille advised Ebrahim not to report to the city council allegations of misconduct against Whitehead involving payments of more than R70m.

'Smit should know better'

Basson has informed Smit that News24 won't disclose its sources to the city and will continue to report on the Bowman Gilfillan report.

"This report is clearly in the public interest. The importance of the matters unearthed by Bowman Gilfillan to Cape Town residents overrides any confidentiality provisions, that in any way does not apply to journalists. The protection of sources is a sacrosanct journalistic principle which we will never breach," said Basson.

"It is furthermore of grave concern that the speaker of a major metropolitan municipality and member of a party (the DA) that claims to be media freedom champions can ask a journalist to disclose her sources. Smit should know better," Basson added.

De Lille's fate will be decided by the DA's federal executive on Sunday, after the party earlier asked her for reasons why she should not be fired.

De Lille was seeking legal advice on the Bowman Gilfillan report and has accused Western Cape DA leader Bonginkosi Madikizela of aiming to take over her job.

Source: News24

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