Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2001-01-29 Reporter: Editor:

Headlines Distort Mbeki's Reference

Publication  Business Day
Date 2001-01-29
Reporter Frank Chikane : Director-General Presidency
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Your headlines on Friday January 26 in the Cape edition ("Mbeki ignored' plea for Heath role"), curiously watered down later ("Mbeki ignored' Kahn's probe advice") and over that day's editorial ("Cynical manipulation") do not correctly represent the president's reference to the views of Advocates Frank Kahn and Jan Lubbe. This is so even making allowance for the media's powerful temptation to seek and find manipulation by the executive of government.

The president referred to what they had to say in response to a request for an assessment of the nature of the information in the documents in question, so that he could apply his mind to the question of whether to issue a proclamation. You report and I quote from your report that Kahn and Lubbe said "that at this stage' there was no prima facie evidence that anyone had acted unlawfully".

That is what the president said. That was the nub of the issue and the fact that he did not refer to other matters in his address does not constitute his "ignoring" them. For the record, the president mentioned matters related to these when talking to journalists on Wednesday after announcing the appointments of a cabinet minister and deputy ministers.

The matters referred to in the first letter were not relevant to the determination of whether or not the president should appoint the special investigation unit headed by Judge Heath. What was relevant for this purpose was whether or not there was prima facie evidence on the basis of which the president could issue the proclamation.

The president's powers are constrained by the law and the constitution and thus the president carefully considered all views presented to him and made his determination within the constraints of the law.

You also note that Advocate Kahn confirmed that the president had not "misrepresented" him. The fact that in your headline you yourself put the word "ignored" in quotes when in fact you are not quoting anyone indicates your own reservations about the correctness of that description or an attempt to give your view authenticity that it does not have.

Indeed it was none other than the government that released the full Kahn-Lubbe assessments, offering the public maximum information. That is not manipulation, neither is it cynical nor nontransparent.

With acknowledgement to Frank Chikane and Business Day.