In another important case, on September 2, 2008, the Ombudsman found in favour of a former government official, the former CEO of the Land Bank, and against the Sunday Times newspaper. Here, it criticised the paper for presenting as fact what was only a qualified report by a prominent auditing firm, and ordered the paper to publish a report of the findings compiled by the Ombudsman.
These instances demonstrate not only independence of the Ombudsman from the industry, in the sense of finding against particular newspapers. They further show a degree of wider pro-activity and reference to the press much more widely than the particular papers under consideration.
Summing up the year’s work in August 2009, Thloloe (2009) reported to the Council on the extent of usage of the Press Council by the ruling party in amongst the 103 complaints he had handled since January that year. He wrote that the ANC had been “quick to tell the world that it had submitted complaints against City Press and the Sunday Times. Its treasurer, Dr Matthew Phosa, has also filed a complaint against City Press.” He also advised that Judge John Hhlope, a person seen as aligned to Jacob Zuma, had also submitted a complaint (against the Mail & Guardian). Although not in his report, earlier in the year, an incident had occurred in which The Star newspaper reported allegations about the then President Kgalema Motlanthe having an affair. Motlanthe’s response at the time was that he would take the issue to the Press Council. (Berger, 2009) bring complaints against Independent Newspapers and Sunday World, but these were settled with apologies by the papers as a result of the Ombudsman’s mediation, and therefore did not come to a hearing. Added to these cases, even President Jacob Zuma submitted a complaint to the Ombudsman during 2009. As it happened, he then withdrew it soon, with his office saying that there had been good reporting of the President’s response to initial coverage. Commented Thloloe (2009): “What was interesting for me was that President Zuma, like President Motlanthe before him, was giving self regulation his stamp pf (sic) approval”.