28 April 2023: Zunaid Moti has slammed the reporting of The Sentry in collaboration with Amabhungane as “unethical, unprofessional, and even illegal”, stating that their journalists seemed determined to ignore all evidence that contradicted their allegations, or the fact that their reporting was reliant on stolen documents from known criminals with a clear vendetta.
An international investigative journalism organisation based in the United States of America, the Sentry, in partnership with South African investigative journalism outfit Amabhungane, recently published a report making serious allegations involving economic crimes against Moti. These concerned his dealings with African Chrome Fields, a chrome mining operation based in Zimbabwe, accusing the company of wielding undue political influence.
However, he notes that the report was based on a highly suspicious batch of stolen documents fed to media by a former employee with criminal connections, and that he had not been allowed the opportunity to authenticate these documents or check whether they had been edited or forged.
Paul O’Sullivan and Cyanre, a digital forensic firm, confirmed that more than 4,000 confidential documents had been stolen by ex-employee, Clinton van Niekerk last year, which were then provided to third-parties in litigation against the Moti Group. These documents were then leaked to various criminal associates and media houses. Criminal charges have been laid against van Niekerk for the theft of the documents in both Zimbabwe and South Africa, and the investigation remains ongoing.
After receiving an extensive list of questions from The Sentry related to the documents, Moti’s legal counsel warned the journalists that these were documents were stolen, and as “fruits of the poisonous tree”, should not be relied upon for information. However, despite repeated reasonable requests, the journalists refused to share any documents for verification in case they had been edited or forged, denying Moti and his legal counsel the opportunity to reply to or rebut their source material.
“These publications seem intent on using these documents as the basis for their story, demonstrating that their false narrative was predetermined and could not be altered – no matter what answers or contradictory evidence we provided. For supposed professional investigative journalists, this behaviour is most untoward and concerning, especially given their duty to fair and balanced reporting. It makes me wonder if they are in fact captured as they seem adamant to only advance one side of their story,” he says.
“Additionally, their articles were produced without a shred of real evidence or proof to back its claims, damaging my reputation and ACF’s standing in the interests of producing a sensationalist ‘click-bait’ story rather than for public interest.”
Despite Amabhungane’s series of wide-ranging and often contradictory allegations concerning Moti and ACF’s influence in Zimbabwe, Moti emphasises that the company is run in compliance with all relevant regulations.
“African Chrome Fields has not received any preferential treatment or benefits outside of the ordinary course of business, or concessions that are not comparable to other investors in the region,” he states.
“All such concessions were obtained through the proper channels in accordance with all relevant regulations, and while some were granted, many were not. This further refutes any claims of special favours – a notion I reject with the contempt it deserves.”
Moti has challenged the journalists involved to back their claims with evidence.
“If they believe that they have established the facts, I invite them to show us the evidence, and allow us the proper time to investigate the allegations and respond.
“We have no wish to silence or otherwise impede the media, and in fact, we have answered every query sent to us. Having said this, the media should be held to a standard of fair, balanced and non-biased reporting if they expect the public to have confidence in their ability to report the news,” concludes Moti.