Soccer boss Jomo Sono is at the centre of an alleged blackmail campaign against Communications Minister Dina Pule, the City Press reported on Sunday.
The newspaper alleged Sono’s company, Jomo Sono Investments, was one of 36 companies in the running for a R2.5bn tender to be awarded by Pule’s department.
Pule this week claimed that a series of articles by the Sunday Times newspaper formed part of a smear and blackmail campaign against her, and that business people linked to the newspaper had a vested interest in trying to secure the set-top-box tender.
Set-top-boxes are required for the move from analogue to digital TV broadcasting. Pule said high-profile business people and politicians tried to force her into making decisions in their favour.
Pule accused journalists Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Stephan Hofstatter and Rob Rose of being involved in the campaign. She claimed Wa Afrika had an association with businessmen and companies linked to the box tender through a cellphone business venture.
The minister detailed several stories written about her which, she claimed, sought to project her as a corrupt minister bribed with a pair of shoes. The Sunday Times reported allegations that she gave tenders to a boyfriend, meddled in tender processes, and interfered in the appointment of officials to the boards of state-owned entities, like Sentech and the SABC.
The City Press alleged Sono and Robert Nkuna, a former Independent Communications Authority of SA councillor and special adviser to Pule’s predecessor Roy Padayachie, were instrumental in brokering a meeting between Pule and Wa Afrika on June 19 last year.
The City Press reported that Wa Afrika on Saturday admitted Sono’s role in facilitating the meeting, but said the soccer mogul “excused himself from the venue prior to the start of it”.
He said he had known Sono for many years and was not aware of the fact that Sono’s company was tendering for the set-top-box tender.
After Pule’s allegations, Sunday Times editor Phylicia Oppelt said Wa Afrika was not involved in any cellphone business.
The Sunday Times published an opinion piece in reaction to Pule’s allegations by Rose, Wa Afrika and Hofstatter.
The journalists said the minister’s story was an “equal mix of conspiracy theory and fiction” and that Wa Afrika had no Chinese cellphone company, and never tried to blackmail Pule.
They said the minister had come up with an “outlandish movie script” to counter allegations of wrongdoing.
“This week, Nkuna denied Pule’s version of events. He told the editor of this newspaper that the meeting happened like this; he and… Sono were at the… hotel… when Pule’s [alleged] boyfriend Phosane Mngqibisa happened to walked past.”
He stopped and spoke to Sono about soccer.
“But the talk soon turned to how Pule was under attack from the Sunday Times and how something needed to be done to stop the onslaught.”
The newspaper reported that Sono had known Wa Afrika for many years but they never shared any business interests.
It further reported that Sono had confirmed Nkuna’s version of events to Oppelt.