UPDATE: Temporary truce – O’Sullivan suspends his Sunday Times action

UPDATE: Following an interview on eTV this morning forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan has decided to suspend his planned action against the Sunday Times. In an email to senior staff at Tiso Blackstar, O’Sullivan says a close friend encouraged him to do this long enough for the other dynamics requested below to play out. He will suspend sine die (means “without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing”) until the outcome of the dynamics. During this suspension O’Sullivan expects the publications to not carry any provocative stories or dishonest opinions. He’ll not engage further with other media and has cancelled some high profile interviews in the process. He does however conclude that should the publications fail to comply with his demands, he’ll reinstate his campaign immediately.

CAPE TOWN — Corruption-buster Paul O’Sullivan, has a new prime target; the Sunday Times. In this fascinating, combative email, he demands the newspaper ‘’fess-up’’ properly or face the wrath of his formidable skills that have endured arrest, imprisonment, and alleged torture to put several high profile corrupt civil servants behind bars. He isn’t buying Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko’s seemingly erudite editorial this past weekend – one carefully targeted at regaining credibility and trust of its readership after years of either deliberate manipulation of the news or woefully inadequate verification of its sources and checking out of their motives. So dismal was their diligence that it’s on a par with the most rapacious corporate behaviour that aided and abetted State Capture, he maintains. O’Sullivan promises to lead a campaign to get the major Sunday Times advertisers to withdraw their support – unless the paper publishes an unequivocal retraction of three fake news stories; the SARS Rogue Unit as well as Zimbabwe Renditions and the Cato Manor Death Squad. All have been discredited and all had as prime targets, enemies of the State Capture machine. The paper must admit it was captured and publish a full front-page apology to a detailed list of people. Or else. – Chris Bateman

Paul O’Sullivan email to Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko

Good morning Bongani,

I refer to your tongue-in-cheek editorial of yesterday.

Quite frankly, it’s far too glib, far too little and far too late.

Forensic Investigator Paul O’Sullivan

Apart from the one meeting we had, you have failed and/or refused to engage with me in a transparent manner. As a significant victim of State Capture, I have an unalienable right to see those responsible for my repeated searches, arrests, torture and the attack on my small children, being held accountable.

For the Sunday Times to claim credits for the Zondo Commission could be likened to Joseph Goebbels claiming credit for the Nuremberg Trials.

Ironically, you said:

“Sources will always have their own motives, and it falls to us as journalists and editors to question and uncover the motive before publication.”

Yet, only weeks ago, one of your journalists was knee-deep in a fake-news story put together by a criminal syndicate, aimed at tarnishing my name, my lawyer’s name and the name of the head of IPID. The motive for the fake news, was to get criminals of the hook and turn the tide against the forces of law and order.

‘You can trust the Sunday Times’, is therefore a blatant lie, which is proven by your recent mafia supporting article, loaded with lies and dishonest journalism, after a supposed ‘tip-off’. We all know the tip-off came from a criminal, on Phahlane’s payroll and was aimed at bolstering Phahlane’s desperate attempt at evading justice:

Paul O'Sullivan Whatsapp Sunday Times

I record that I did not even have WhatsApp until a few months ago, yet your story was based on a period in late 2016 early 2017.

Despite your assistance to the Phahlane criminal syndicate, it won’t change anything, he will still go to prison. Get yourself a Ouija Board and speak to Selebi. Him and his spin doctors tried every trick in the book and failed to keep him out of jail. Radovan Krejcir paid off a journalist at IOL to write garbage about me, he still got 35 years. Yet there are still journalists and editors out there, prepared to have a go at me, to protect criminals. Well I’m done putting up with it and I am coming for you.

As far as the Sunday Times is concerned, I shall go on record as stating:

  1. Without the Sunday Times, State Capture would not have been possible. Your fake news stories with the threads ‘SARS Rogue Unit’ as well as ‘Zimbabwe Renditions’ and ‘Cato Manor Death Squad’, were ‘planted’ by Richard Mduli’s accomplices, using two chequebook journalists, that are still on the payroll of Tiso Blackstar, having been discretely moved within the corporate mist.
  2. The Sunday Times fake-news stories were nothing more than a carefully orchestrated plot to CAPTURE the criminal justice system.
  3. That one man could be actively engaged in State Capture, then seek to profit from it by writing a book titled ‘Licence to Loot’, is just unbelievable. The audacity of criminals fails to amaze me.
  4. Without the Sunday Times, the Capture of the criminal justice system would NOT have been possible.
  5. The Capture of the criminal justice system was a chosen strategy to prevent the overall projects of State Capture from being derailed, as an uncaptured criminal justice systems would have gone after the Zuptoids, not those of us that were trying to expose them.
  6. Dramat, Booysen and Sibiya would not have acquiesced to State Capture by hiding the dockets in a dark corner of Shawn Abrahams office. In fact Abrahams himself would have been toast.
  7. Neither Anwar Dramat, nor Shadrack Sibiya would have had me hauled off a plane to London with my two minor children and subjected me to false imprisonment and torture for three days.
  8. Neither would Dramat had allowed my legal advisor to kidnapped and driven around for hours before being dumped at a rural police station, with instructions to the station staff that she was not there.
  9. Likewise Dramat would not have allowed Ntlemeza’s goons to breach a court order by again arresting me.
  10. Neither Dramat or Sibiya would have repeatedly raided my offices, in the hope of finding and destroying the evidence I held.
  11. Since it is now clear using the ‘but for’ analogy (the opposite in legal terms of ‘novus actus interviniens’) that, but for the Sunday Times, the criminal justice system would not have been captured. Accordingly, it follows, that; But for the capture of the criminal justice system, I would not have been dragged off a plane and; But for the capture of the criminal justice system State Capture Sarah-Jane Trent would not have been kidnapped, and; But for the capture of the criminal justice system State Capture as we know it would been a miserable failure with all the suspects rounded up and in prison.
  12. Under Dramat and Sibiya, the multiple serious criminal cases opened by Forensics for Justice against Dudu Myeni, Jacob Zuma, Edward Zuma, Thalente Myeni, Duduzane Zuma, Yusuf Kajee, the Bhana’s, Jen Chi Huang, Lucky Montana, General Moonoo, General Phahlane, General Ntlemeza, Minister Nhleko and a whole host of others, would have been properly investigated and people would have been arrested and charged. This would have effectively HALTED State Capture.
  13. Accordingly, Sunday Times, belong with KPMG, Hogan Lovells, ENS Africa, ANN7, The New Age, Bell Pottinger, McKinsey, Bain & Co and all the other dregs of society that thought they could get rich quick from state capture. I have said it before and I will say it again and again and again, The Sunday Times are the enemy of the people.
Charges against Shadrack Sibiya withdrawn

I’m giving you one last chance, to make a change for the better and my demand is really quite simple:

  1. An unequivocal retraction of all three fake news stories: ‘SARS Rogue Unit’ as well as ‘Zimbabwe Renditions’ and ‘Cato Manor Death Squad’
  2. An admission that your journalists and editorial team were ‘captured’ and therefore played a significant role in State Capture.
  3. You and the journalists in question hand back the award they received for the fake news stories.
  4. A full FRONT PAGE contrite apology to all the people of South Africa, including, but not limited to, myself, Sarah-Jane Trent, Anwar Dramat, Shadrack Sibiya, Johan Booysen, the SARS Three, Pravin Gordhan, Ivan Pillay, Glynis Breytenbach, Robert McBride, Matthews Sesoko, Innocent Khuba, Mandla Mahlangu and Temane Binang.
  5. A public undertaking NOT to write stories fed to you by criminals in the future, like you clearly did on 2018-09-16. If you would have bothered to check the motives, you would have quickly realised you were being played, yet again!

Should you fail and/or refuse to comply with the admissions and rectification activities stated above, Forensics for Justice will start canvassing ALL advertisers that buy space in Sunday Times, with a formal request for them to boycott the Sunday Times, until it admits its facilitative role in State Capture and takes steps to remediate the situation.

Since it is clear that SANEF is also captured, in that they attempt to block freedom of speech by citizens, with dishonest and false media releases, I will also turn on them, should they take sides. Their silence was palpable whilst Sunday Times, ANN7, New Age and Bell Pottinger were engaged in State Capture, they therefore have no moral ground to stand on in defending dishonest media outlets.

It’s time the Media-Mafia of South Africa are held fully accountable for their role in State Capture and, since they will not self-regulate themselves, then it is up to the public to stop them. It’s clear SANEF is well past it’s sell-by-date and are now part of the problem rather than being part of the solution.

I’m done being trashed, like I have been over the years, by dishonest journalists and their editors. From now on its ‘no more Mr Nice Guy’. Next you or the clowns at SANEF rattle my cage, prepare to be bitten.

You have SEVEN days to climb down off your high-horse and do the right thing, or prepare for a revenue boycott. I will gladly pay for an articled clerk to sit at the offices of Forensics for Justice and drive Tiso Blackstar shareholder value into the ground, if its managers cannot properly admit to their role in State Capture.

My rights are reserved.

PETER BRUCE: The money behind the vitriol

Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko has apologised profusely for the Sars ‘rogue unit’ reporting. So why is everyone back to attacking the paper?

By Peter Bruce (republished here thanks to Tiso Blackstar)

In a perfect world, it would not have been necessary for Bongani Siqoko, the editor of the Sunday Times, to write a personal commentary on page two of his newspaper. But it isn’t perfect. For a range of reasons the Sunday Times has become a target of rival media groups for something it did five years ago and for which it has already profusely and appropriately and, in my view, adequately apologised.

In particular, and curiously, Daily Maverick writers suddenly have the Sunday Times in their sights. The great Jacques Pauw has penned two articles into which he drags the newspaper. Pauli van Wyk of Daily Maverick’s Scorpio investigations unit has weighed in. So has Marianne Thamm in the same publication. What is going on?

There are about eleventy-twelve versions of the Sunday Times and SA Revenue Service (Sars) story and it is basically so complex that it is beyond ordinary telling.

Journalism is something that should happen in public. What you know you should write and put your name on it. That doesn’t happen often enough. Journalists know and keep too many secrets. I always ask people not to tell me anything I can’t print. Otherwise, what’s the point?

But a lot of this story was left on the cutting table and can never be put together again. Rifts between old friends. Rows over sources. Accusation, jealousy and rage. Basically the Sunday Times, in mid-2014, began to write a series of stories about the creation of an “illegal rogue unit” at Sars. There were 34 in all. You all know the story about the brothel and stuff.

The “rogue unit” stories have been exposed to have been false and were used by the Zuma administration to fire senior and brilliant officers of the revenue service and to legitimise in the public mind the capture of Sars for the benefit of the Gupta family and the wider state capture conspiracy. This successful assault on Sars has set our prosperity back a decade.

One of the core accusations in the Daily Maverick articles is that Phylicia Oppelt, the Sunday Times editor at the time, was getting her information from a guy call Rudolf Mastenbroek, a lawyer and former Sars official. He also happened to be her former husband. He had a beef, the stories now say, with people in Sars and he in fact admits as much in an article in the current Mail & Guardian.

I’m as sure as I can be he wasn’t the source. Mastenbroek denies it and Oppelt, whom I know, has always denied it. Pearlie Joubert, a former Sunday Times investigative journalist who was close to Mastenbroek and who quit honourably because of what the newspaper was publishing, also denies Mastenbroek was the source of the stories they actually published.

Joubert paid a terrible price for going against the grain. Mastenbroek had tried to feed her dirt on Sars when he left. She made no secret when talking to her colleagues that she thought he was talking rubbish.

But other members of the paper’s investigative team began to bring in stories. Some struck Joubert as familiar, but these reporters, she knew, weren’t only talking to Mastenbroek.

The chief receiver of documents the paper built their stories on was Piet Rampedi, who would take offence when asked about his sources, colleagues say today. Rampedi had credentials, though. At City Press, he had exposed Julius Malema’s dodgy business dealings in Limpopo. And Rampedi only joined the paper after the first big Sars story had “broken”.

For an editor, it boils down to the same thing every time your news editors tell you one of the reporters has a scoop that’ll shake the world. Do you believe them or not? The standard during my 17 years of editing newspapers and magazines was this: I could ask for the name of a source and the reporters could refuse to tell me. I would then decide what we printed and what not.

At The Washington Post during Watergate, editor Ben Bradlee had the same problem. His reporters had a source called “Deep Throat” and he had to live with that or the story would go elsewhere. Oppelt would have had the same conundrum, though she would have known more about their sources than Bradlee. Still, Bradlee chose wisely. She didn’t. But don’t underestimate the competitive pressures involved. The bulk of her investigative team were in Johannesburg. Joubert, watching the “rogue unit” story expand, was freaking out down the phone from Cape Town, where she lived.

Basically, the Sunday Times reporters and its editor were played by clever people, well-resourced and playing a long game and with high and respected office. It cost Oppelt easily the best editorship in South African journalism. Why, I often ask myself, would she have given it away so cheaply had she really known what was going on?

The answer, I genuinely believe, is that she did not appreciate what was being done to her or the people around her. Or the wider effect her stories would have. Somebody in the newspaper’s investigative team had been either corrupted or, equally easily, duped. And it had worked. By the time Joubert blew the whistle and spectacularly resigned in February 2015, it was too late. Worse, by that stage Mastenbroek had been appointed, by the National Treasury, onto the commission headed by judge Frank Kroon. It was Mastenbroek who wrote up the now-discredited Kroon report, which confirmed that the “rogue unit” was both real and illegal. Of course it did.

It’s doesn’t help that there are still some reports on Sars capture — a KPMG report and one from advocate Muzi Sikhakhane — whose authors “stand by” them. The credibility of those reports is long dead.

Nonetheless, the Kroon report made the Mastenbroek/Oppelt conspiracy look even more compelling. Except for the lack of any actual evidence that it was true.

Kroon last week disgraced himself at the Nugent inquiry into the capture of Sars by admitting that he should have found that the “rogue” unit was in fact legal and that his finding should be reversed.

On May 28 2017, the story went into another gear. The Sunday Times and City Press published the first of a torrent of stories emanating from a cache of e-mails taken from the servers at the Guptas’ IT company, Sahara. Daily Maverick was quick to follow and the peerless amaBhungane investigative unit followed suit.

But something bad had happened. The e-mails had been in the hands of Daily Maverick and amaBhungane for weeks, perhaps months. Somehow they had entrusted them to someone who leaked them to the two big Sunday newspapers.

Life has never been the same since. First the e-mails: the reading public was soaked with them. They were incredible and everyone had a bite at them. They ended Jacob Zuma’s formal political career and forced the Guptas and all their money into exile. Heads have rolled, or are rolling, all through the state; commissions of inquiry are turning over more stones. The consequences will last for my lifetime.

And the Sunday Times is in good hands. So why the attacks? This is where it gets difficult. Many of the people involved in the saga are my friends. Peter Richer, who was ejected from Sars because of the Sunday Times reporting, I have known and admired for his activism and integrity for more than 40 years. I should have done more to help him. Pauw is a friend and a national hero. Oppelt is still a great and vibrant lunch partner. Branko Brkic, the guy who started Daily Maverick, is a hyperactive genius who squeezed an entirely ridiculous anonymous column out of me for more than two years while he still had a print magazine called Maverick.

Watching Brkic’s writers attack the Sunday Times now leaves a nasty taste. He had a story, a huge one, and he dropped it. Brkic is prone to over-elaboration. He held on to the ball too long.

That’s because he’s ambitious. Years ago he began whipping up public sympathy, also through a regular Maverick contributor, Michelle Solomon, pretending that she was trying to access a report done by Anton Harber on newsroom management at the Sunday Times.

It went on and on. The big and nasty Sunday Times was keeping vital information from the innocent SA public and plucky little Maverick was trying to get it published in their interest. Then I discovered Maverick had had a copy of the report the whole time and was itself denying the public access to it. I called Mondli Makhanya one day (he was Sunday Times editor at the time and now edits City Press) and asked him to give me a copy so we at Business Day could put it on our website. He did and we did.

The howls from the other side you could have heard in Argentina. And I can’t help thinking the constant prodding at the Sunday Times now is sour grapes. What is the paper supposed to do about getting the Gupta e-mails first? Should it have held on to them the way Daily Maverick had been doing? Or about its Sars reporting? It has already apologised. The editor responsible is gone. Many of the staff are too. Siqoko was well within his rights to write this appeal to readers. Had it been my call I would have run it on the front page.

For people who have chuckled on social media at someone saying “Trust me, I’m a journalist”, they haven’t met this guy.

Journalism is a marginal trade at the best of times. We live, especially in this digital age, by the seats of our pants, many of our best by acts of actual charity, and it is deeply unpleasant watching colleagues turn on each other. No-one I know at Tiso Blackstar Group, which owns the Sunday Times, wishes the Daily Maverick ill. Brkic has done brilliantly but he or someone he trusts will get played too one day and it won’t feel so good.

This story, Sars and state capture, is really about the powerful people who deliberately and secretly connived and plotted and acted to weaken our republic by stealing from it and weakening its institutions. None of them was a journalist.

There will, I know, be other “Sars” moments for Siqoko. There’s the rendition story, the Cato Manor death squad stories and Johan Booysen. Oppelt wasn’t editor for either of those. I am not privy to any discussion at the paper but I would expect the Sunday Times editor to stand up in the face of them and act as honourably for his newspaper as he did with the Sars saga if or when its reporting is discredited.

Newsrooms are complex beasts. Everyone has their own best interests at heart. They’re only as good as their last piece of work. Some leaders work well in this maze. Others don’t.

To pretend that there’s perfection in news is absurd, and a bad call, or a torrent of them, is always just around the corner. But take a bit of time to appreciate the people who put their names to the stories we happily talk about, criticise, praise or ignore anonymously.

Yesterday the private investigator Paul O’Sullivan sent a wildly threatening letter to Siqoko, for not responding with sufficient speed and gravity to an earlier, equally wildly threatening letter from the same O’Sullivan.

Not long after, the O’Sullivan letter appeared on Alec Hogg’s digital publication, BizNews. Only after he had published it did BizNews contact Tiso Blackstar for comment.

Seriously? And this in the middle of a lesson in media ethics? C’mon guys. At all costs, get the accusation out? That’s not journalism.

Of course, the public will lap it up. The media at each other’s throats while the country burns, each one signalling more outraged virtue than the other — now that’s spectacle.

The thing is, obviously, that not only the Sunday Times, but also other Tiso Blackstar titles are, irritatingly, still not only standing but making money as well. No one in SA English-language publishing, whether from inside the country like Daily Maverick or outside it like Hogg, is going to make any real headway in their own businesses unless they take these publications down.

That’s what the attacks are about, however comforting they may be to the victims of some of their stories. It’s not about them or their suffering. Or even poor journalism. It’s about Brkic. And Hogg. And, frankly, others too.

Don’t be fooled, dear reader. It’s all about the money.