Alert! Disgraced former City Press editor Vusi Mona has made a startling return to the forefront of national affairs, having been appointed, yesterday, as the head of president Jacob Zuma’s communications office.
Ironically, City Press is now in the capable hands of Ferial Haffajee, whose former paper, the Mail & Guardian, has covered Mona’s shenanigans extensively down the years.
Among said shenanigans was the publication, in the City Press, of the accusation that former national head of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka was an apartheid spy – an event that led to the establishment of the Hefer Commission (2003), during which the Mona was utterly, and utterly satisfyingly, dismantled by advocate Kessie Naidu while under cross examination:
Each aspect of [the case against Ngcuka] is being torn to shreds under cross-examination by Ngcuka’s legal representative, Marumo Moerane, Justice Minister Penuell Maduna’s lawyer, Norman Arendse, and the combative evidence leader, Kessie Naidu.
This week it was the turn of former City Press editor Vusi Mona to take the stand in support of Maharaj’s charge that Ngcuka had abused his power by making “derogatory” remarks about Maharaj , Deputy President Jacob Zuma and Shaik’s brother, Schabir, among others, at an off-the record meeting with editors in July.
But, as was the case with Maharaj and Shaik a week before, Mona soon found himself on the defensive and was not only forced to admit that he had omitted important comments made at the meeting, but also that the stories his newspaper ran alleging that Ngcuka might have been agent RS452 were “reckless”.
On Thursday , under cross-examination by Naidu, Mona’s case fell apart – prompting one of Ngcuka’s representatives to call him a “dead man walking”.
Naidu recommended perjury charges:
Hefer commission evidence leader Kessie Naidu announced on Monday that he would recommend perjury charges be pressed against former City Press editor Vusi Mona. He would also ask that journalist Ranjeni Munusamy be called again to testify before the commission.
Naidu plans to argue both cases on Friday before Judge Joos Hefer. He made these announcements at the start of Monday’s public commission hearing in Bloemfontein. Both were in the light of a front-page apology to national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka that the City Press had published on Sunday.
Also while editor of City Press, Mona was involved in a scandal which saw him accused of having outside business interests – said interests including a link to a public relations company, a clear conflict for any journalist.
After he left City Press, Mona remained linked to the world of PR, which in turn remained linked to controversy:
Rainbow Kwanda, a communication company linked to former City Press editor Vusi Mona, was awarded a multimillion-rand contract by the Mpumalanga government in June 2003 for services that included advertising, marketing, public relations and media liaison.
The R30-million contract prompted an inquiry by City Press owners Media24 into possible conflicts of interest for Mona, who reportedly held shares in Rainbow Kwanda and participated in its consulting services to Mpumalanga government agencies while still editor of City Press. Mona resigned from the newspaper after the Media24 probe concluded that there had been a conflict of interest.
The Mail & Guardian understands that Rainbow Kwanda was paid, with the authority of Mpumalanga director general Stanley Soko, an amount in excess of R3,6-million before any services in terms of the contract were rendered. This payment was later found by the provincial auditor general to be in contravention of Treasury regulations.
As a journalist, many would argue, Mona covered himself in shame; and, as a PR man, in slime. The president has put his public image in the hands of a highly compromised figure – the sort of character who could very well spur an increase in the kind of satire and ridicule that Zuma dislikes so much.