Paper apologises to Maimane over “leadership classes” piece


The Mail and Guardian has apologised to Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane, for last month publishing an article alleging him to have been receiving so-called leadership classes from former President FW de Klerk.

In an article titled, “Uproar over Maimane’s lessons with FW” on January 29th, the paper, citing alleged party insiders, claimed Maimane had been making a number of visits to de Klerk’s house, seeking advice on speeches and leadership.

Maimane however branded the allegations as an “utter lie” and a “non-story” on twitter, while de Klerk described it as “nonsense” shortly after.

Speaking in a statement, M&G editor Verashni Pillay said the article had been rushed and fell short “at a number of important points”.

“Although the Democratic Alliance and its leader, Mmusi Maimane, were given an opportunity to respond to the general allegation that Maimane was receiving guidance from former president FW de Klerk, and its response was included, the Mail & Guardian should have taken further steps to verify these allegations before publishing them,” Pillay said.

“We did ask the DA’s spokesperson for a response to the allegations that were made in the article. But I accept that the question asked was not sufficient in the circumstances”.

She said the headline “overstated the article’s analysis” and that the paper didn’t ask the questions it should have had, when it approached the FW de Klerk Foundation for comment.

Pillay added that a miscommunication between journalists working on the story, also resulted in a failure to grant feedback from four DA members; Federal Chairperson James Selfe, former leader Tony Leon, Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry Geordin Hll-Lewis and Chief-of-Staff Jonathan Moakes, in relation to an article printed on the fourth page, and that it did not acknowledge that the main reporter had left the party “under acrimonious circumstances”  

“Every organisation will make mistakes, but news organisations are held to a higher standard and the M&G even more so. Our goal is to keep mistakes to a minimum and, when one does happen, acknowledging it promptly and fixing it quickly,” she said.

“As an editor, these failings are mine and I take full responsibility for them. I apologise unreservedly to the organisations and individuals who were affected by these failures, and particularly to our readers”.

In a post on twitter, Maimane responded by saying, “Apology accepted @verashni. I do wish the @mailandguardian success”, while DA Shadow Minister of Education, Gavin Davis, tweeted, “M&G apology shows that self-regulation can work, that we don't need draconian measures such as media tribunals that threaten press freedom”.