The Sunday Times has admitted that the document it claimed was an official "indictment" from the NPA against the Gupta brothers and Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane was actually a guideline document drafted by the DA, the Mail & Guardian reported.
But the paper stands by its intentions, saying its journalists were given the document by senior people in the NPA and they had every reason to believe the document was legitimate.
The Sunday Times reported that according to the "indictment" it had showed that Zwane was "accused number 1" in the NPA's case against him and the Gupta brothers. This is related to the Vrede dairy farm scandal, in which money destined for supporting small black farmers in the Free State was allegedly rerouted to pay for the Gupta family wedding.
It then emerged that the story appeared to be quoting from a draft indictment that the DA had drawn up, which was handed to the Hawks as a "guideline", when the party laid charges against Zwane and the Guptas last year.
The NPA told News24 that the story was false as there was no final indictment yet. NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said the NPA were "professionals" and that the document "is not NPA".
DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach told News24 that the guideline document was not circulated to the media by the DA, and that it was "never given to anybody as an official document".
But the Sunday Times stood by its story initially, with senior reporter Thanduxolo Jika telling eNCA on Sunday that reporters had seen the indictment, which was confirmed by "numerous sources close to the investigation".
But on Tuesday, Siqoko told the Mail & Guardian that the document was not the official indictment after all. However, he said the document had still passed the paper's fact-checking standards, and implied that the Sunday Times was misled.
"Our story was based on a document provided to us by senior prosecutorial officials, and it was identified to us as an official indictment. Given the seniority of these officials and the communications channel they used to relay the document to us, I was satisfied that the lead met our ethical criteria, standard and requirement tests applied to all our news stories.
"However, had it come to our attention at the time that the indictment sent to us was identical to the one drafted by the DA, we would have still published the story. But we would have treated it differently after interrogating these official regarding the origin of the indictment," he said.