President called upon to deal with the messy fallout of a stormy and rancorous love affair between David Masondo and a freelance journalist
It’s a tale of a relationship that started amorously, then a pregnancy happened before it degenerated to being totally acerbic and toxic.
Now the messy affair has landed on the desk of the president.
Deputy Finance Minister David Masondo and a freelance journalist, who can’t be named, cannot stand each other any more as numerous WhatsApp exchanges between them prove.
Both are pursuing various legal routes.
Masondo, who suspects that the journalist had a hidden agenda when she first initiated contact with him when he was chief executive officer at the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC), has laid an extortion charge against her.
She, on the other hand, is canvassing President Cyril Ramaphosa to investigate Masondo for abuse of power following her arrest on August 17 during a Hawks’ sting operation conducted when R300 000, allegedly to buy her silence, was to be delivered.
City Press has seen a copy of the letter written on October 15 by Commission for Gender Equality commissioner and Wits University researcher Lisa Vetten, Commission for Gender Equality commissioner Mbuyiselo Botha and several other prominent activists which, in part, reads: “Following her arrest Ms X was held in police custody for the weekend and released on August 19 without appearing in court, the prosecutor having declined to place the matter on the roll. According to Ms X’s lawyer, the prosecutor’s decision was informed by the Hawks’ failure to obtain the necessary authorisation from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to institute the ‘sting operation’ leading to Ms X’s arrest.”
It continues: “Just on two months have passed since Ms X was detained. The investigation has neither been completed nor Ms X charged, suggesting that there is little to no evidence supporting the deputy minister’s claims. Given the tardiness of the investigation, coupled to what appears to be an unauthorised sting operation and arrest, there is strong reason to suspect that this matter actually represents the abuse of state power, rather than extortion and corruption. If this is the case, then the deployment of state resources and force by a male political leader against his former female companion must be understood as a form of intimate partner violence, rendering Ms X’s arrest and detention a profoundly gendered abuse of power.”
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, and Hawks’ Gauteng spokesperson, Captain Carol Mulamu, did not respond to written questions.
Vetten said that Ramaphosa had not responded to the letter although his special adviser, Olive Shisana, had confirmed receiving it.
“We never received a response … the special adviser said she was passing it to the NPA to take a decision,” said Vetten.
The moment of weakness
Masondo and the woman give different versions about how they first met to the point of the payment or extortion.
Masondo said when she first approached him last year to do a story about the automotive industry, he referred her to the AIDC’s spokesperson.
“From January to April last year, I refused to meet her. She met our media liaison officer and no story was written,” said Masondo.
“When I resigned, the ANC asked me to establish the OR Tambo School of Leadership, she had been saying she wants to see me and I eventually agreed to meet her in July [last year] on condition that whatever we were going to discuss was off the record,” he said.
Their first meeting was at the Mugg & Bean in Killarney Mall, Johannesburg. Masondo said it was late when they left.
She first asked him to drop her in the CBD to catch a taxi and changed her mind and asked to be dropped at home but eventually wanted to book into a B&B.
“That’s when the moment of weakness happened and after two weeks she said she was pregnant,” Masondo said.
She concurred that she approached Masondo for a story about women in the automotive industry, which was published in a weekly newspaper.
She said the information she got from the AIDC spokesperson was not useful.
Her affidavit detailing her “intimidation” reads: “He took interest in the article I wrote and when the article was published he invited me for coffee, which we had at Mugg & Bean in Killarney.”
She claimed Masondo had since been trying to portray her as an unethical journalist.
Love relationship and pregnancy
She insisted this week that she and Masondo were in a relationship, even though it was “abusive”, but Masondo does not think so.
“At no point did he end our relationship or threaten to end our relationship. On the contrary, Masondo continued to maintain our relationship,” she said in her affidavit.
She detailed how they were planning in April this year to have another baby after her first pregnancy was “illegally terminated” on January 7 this year – a case she reported to the Health Professions Council of SA on June 5 this year.
She said they could not agree when to have the child.
In that affidavit, she claimed she had taken the initiative to break up with Masondo several times but the deputy minister would keep coming back.
However, a WhatsApp message that Masondo sent her appears to indicate that he was not interested in a love relationship.
“For the last two weeks since I have known you, I think I have treated you with the utmost respect to deserve such insults from you. I accept that what I think may not be what you feel. For this reason, if there is anything offensive and disrespectful I unintentionally said or did, I would be prepared to beg for your forgiveness.”
On May 9 Masondo wrote to her: “From the discussion we had so far, I think we don’t agree on having a baby. To be sure, I don’t want a baby. Furthermore, I’m not comfortable being in a romantic relationship [with] you. In fact, we both agree that such a relationship is not viable. And you don’t want us to be friends. Hence, I f****d off as per your instructive demand.”
However, she has denied the extortion claim and said she would have preferred that both families met and resolved the matter in terms of culture and traditions.
The deputy minister resisted this meeting.
“At no stage whatsoever did I demand any money from Masondo. In fact, he was the one who mentioned the payment of money and when he did so, I was insulted by his gesture and told him so in no uncertain terms,” she said in her affidavit.
“Masondo and I agreed he would pay for my psychological treatment for a period of three years which amounted to R300 000 in total … because he has previously given me R20 000 in addition to the payment of medical expenses as aforementioned, and when he offered the R40 000 in cash, I agreed to accept such payment,” she said.
In a WhatsApp message to Masondo, she said: “I’m so excited about my 300K.”
She then sang a song and wrote another message: “Sometimes we go through things, tough things, because there are stars that still must be discovered, even if you never get to touch those stars. Take it easy.”
She added: “Live your life. For once for the first time. Set yourself free.”
She said that she was drunk that day when she sang the song.
She said by “set yourself free” she was referring to Masondo’s “broken marriage”.