Controversial author Ronald Suresh Roberts was dealt a blow this week when the Press Council of South Africa failed to side with him over a newspaper report that he had plagiarised the work of a former friend, writes Kim Hawkey in the Sunday Times.


In a unanimous ruling on Tuesday, a Press Council panel found that the newspaper’s belief that Roberts was a plagiarist was “reasonable”.

The council dismissed Roberts’s complaint.

At issue was a story claiming Roberts had plagiarised the work of lawyer Anthony Brink in his book Fit to Govern: The Native Intelligence of Thabo Mbeki.

In the story, published in The Weekender in November last year, Business Day editor Peter Bruce wrote that Roberts had “cut and pasted” portions of Brink’s online book, Lying and Thieving.

Roberts complained that the story contained factual errors and complained that The Weekender had not given him an opportunity to respond to the allegations made against him.

Of the 10 complaints about factual inaccuracies Roberts alleged, the council found that the paper had omitted to get Roberts’s comment on one issue.

This was that Roberts had allegedly told Brink that his manuscript, Just Say Yes, Mr President was “brilliant, f***ing brilliant”, and that his writing was “infectious”, after Brink allegedly accused him of using his work.

But the council said this did not constitute a breach of the South African Press Code because the story was “interpretive” and “did not oblige the newspaper to get Roberts’s side”.

The panel also had to rule on whether the plagiarism accusations, together with Roberts’s responses, were “reported accurately, fairly and in a balanced manner”.

Click here to read the full report, posted on the Sunday Times website.