He will humiliate her and ruin her life if she doesn’t pay up. That’s what a man who claimed to be a journalist told Social Development Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu when he tried to blackmail her into paying for his silence, claiming that he had damaging information about her.
Bogopane-Zulu said the man told her that he was in possession of new information relating to a story that City Press published in January: “Deputy minister bust in lobolo ‘subsidy’” (City Press, January 27 2020), about the deputy minister allegedly taking an administrative clerk in her office, Zwidofhela Mafoko, along on international trips so that he would benefit from the subsistence and travel allowance to save towards paying lobolo for her niece.
Read: Deputy minister bust in lobolo ‘subsidy’
The story was based on a recorded audio discussion between the minister and the staff member in 2016. Bogopane-Zulu acknowledged the voice in the recording as hers, but denied doing any wrong, telling City Press that she wanted to assist Mafoko, who has a disability, by including him on the list of staff she would rotate when she undertook government overseas travels.
There were claims of extortion in that story, where it is alleged that there were text messages from Mafoko to Bogopane-Zulu. The messages appeared to have been between Mafoko and a certain William du Toit, with the latter demanding money from Mafoko and threatening to release the recording of the conversation. The deputy minister saw the messages as an attempt to blackmail her by Mafoko, who denied this.
Bogopane-Zulu says she finds herself in an almost similar situation again, with a man she has saved on her cellphone contact book as Fake Journalist. She allowed City Press to listen in on a call she made to the man, who she said had identified himself as John Molokomme, a journalist working for the Sowetan.
“He dropped the call the other day when I told him to hold so I could connect the Sowetan editor to our call because he claimed to be working for the newspaper,” Bogopane-Zulu said.
Lets negotiate a deal, and then I will keep quiet
During the call, the man on the other side of the line repeatedly threatened that he was going to sell the information he claimed to have on the deputy minister, and spoke less about him being a journalist. This was after having been heard in a call recording from earlier saying he was “going to publish story”.
City Press has seen a string of text messages between the man and Bogopane-Zulu.
“Lets negotiate a deal, and then I will keep quiet…You send me an eWallet every month and I will keep quiet … An amount of R2 000 or R2 500 each month,” one of the messages from the man reads. When he appeared not to be getting an appropriate response from the recipient of his messages, the sender resorted to threats.
“Wena u don’t know me clearly … I will ruin your life and name … You will regret for the rest of your life, am telling you. Am expecting money month end from you and won’t sell this story until month end … and I still got even more news about you,” another message reads.
Let’s hope you are ready for humiliation
In one reply, Bogopane-Zulu told him she was not going to entertain him because he was not saying what the story was about.
“Let’s hope you are ready for humiliation… twice in news in one year,” a response came.
Attempts to get a hold of the man on the other side of the line drew a black, with his phone turned off when City Press tried to contact him.
Bogopane-Zulu said the man was yet to tell her what exactly was the new information he claimed to have. She said she was not worried about anything as she described the incident as yet another attempt by someone to make a quick buck out of her.
“I don’t like being blackmailed. This is another form of violence, where people think that just because we are public representatives they can do to us as they please, forgetting that all laws and legislation apply to all of us,” she said.