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Media ordered to apologise to Lavery Modise

The Daily Maverick has been instructed by the Press Ombud to apologise to former chairman of Hogan Lovells South Africa, Lavery Modise. The Daily Maverick was found to be in breach of numerous aspects of the Press Code in an article published on 25 January 2023.

Authored by journalist, Marianne Thamm, the article failed to seek the right of reply from Modise and incorrectly interpreted a statement issued by multinational Hogan Lovells “regretting” that its name “was associated” with state capture. The Daily Maverick article harmfully messaged that the statement was an “apology” for its role in state capture and that there had been an “exoneration” of senior Sars officials by the firm. The article referred to Modise and work the South African firm and Modise had done for Sars six years ago in 2017.

The Press Ombud directed Daily Maverick to apologise to Modise and change the headline and introduction to the article to cure any reputational harm for Modise. They stated that if Modise’s name is linked to the Daily Maverick article the impression cannot be created that the multinational Hogan Lovells apologised for Modise’s work (because it had not), or that Modise “exonerated” the Sars employee (because he had not).

To view the full Press Ombud Ruling dated 7 August 2023 in favour of Modise, please click here.

What was wrong with the Daily Maverick article?

There was no apology by multinational Hogan Lovells: The Press Ombud confirmed that the Hogan Lovells’ 2023 statement of regret that its name “was associated” with state capture was in fact not an “apology” or an acknowledgement that the South African firm or Modise had done anything wrong in relation to the 2017 labour law work done by them for Sars.

There was no exoneration by the South African firm or by Modise of any Sars official:

The Press Ombud found that Modise did not in fact “exonerate” the senior Sars officials in question. The article omitted key facts about Modise’s 2017 labour law mandate and work, including that under South African laws and the Constitution attorneys (like Modise) and firms of attorneys (like the firm) do not have the scope or power or authority to subpoena information and investigate alleged criminal conduct of uncooperative Sars employees outside the Sars workplace or anywhere, or to find Sars employees criminally liable and convict them, or to “exonerate” them of an alleged crime (only a Court can lawfully do that).

If a Sars employee is convicted by a Court of a crime committed outside the workplace or anywhere, such criminal conviction could then under labour laws give rise to proven misconduct justifying dismissal by the employer Sars.

Modise did his job professionally: The article omitted that the Law Society had confirmed that Modise had acted professionally in his legal advisory job as an attorney for Sars and that he had performed his labour law mandate in the same manner.

Modise was not involved in the state capture project: The Press Ombud confirmed that the Daily Maverick article was not suggesting that Modise or the South African firm was involved in the state capture project (because they were not).

Please refer to the above Press Ombud Ruling.

Statement issued by Lawtons Inc. September 2023


Lawtons Africa is a South African law firm. With roots that grew out of seeds sown in down-town Johannesburg in 1892, our history features various changes and different names. Our team of lawyers, including directors, consultants, associates and candidate attorneys is highly qualified, market-recognised and skilled. For further information, visit

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