POLICE GUILTY OF DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL
The prosecuting authorities in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, have confirmed that they will not prosecute our journalist, Mzilikazi wa Afrika, due to lack of evidence for his so-called crime of “fraud”. Yet the police are refusing to release him from custody in flagrant violation of the spirit of the law. This is nothing less than the detention without trial of a journalist.
This confirms our suspicion that the heavy-handed operation against Mzilikazi was, from the outset, designed to intimidate him and the Sunday Times and had no serious legal purpose.
Mzilikazi’s legal representatives will tonight seek an urgent interdict in the High Court in Nelspruit to have him released from jail.
We are extremely concerned about the well-being of a second “suspect” in this case who was arrested more than 48 hours ago, but has not been brought to trial.
We call on President Jacob Zuma to instruct the Commissioner of Police, Bheki Cele, to call a halt to this campaign of intimidation and to release Mzilikazi as this abuse of justice is causing deep embarrassment to this country.
He must reassure the nation that never again will the law enforcement agencies of this democratic nation be used to intimidate journalists.
Editor: Sunday Times
The heavy handed action of the police in arresting Mzilikazi wa Afrika has delivered a real snot klap to those who are planning legislation to circumscribe reporting and a “Media Appeals Tribunal” to humiliate journalists.
There they were peddling the myth that all these laws were about protecting – even enhancing, I kid you not – media freedom when the jackboot cops arrived at Avusa house and carted off a journalist to an undisclosed (until late last night) destination on mysterious charges (the details of which are yet to be supplied).
Just to make sure that the public got the message that this was an operation befitting a police state, they appointed a former security policeman to head up the investigation and then they began interrogating Mzilikazi at 2.30am this morning. There are surely some in the ANC who must recoil at this dreadful reminder of apartheid era repression?
In one day the police managed to establish with absolute certainty in the minds of South Africans that a full-scale onslaught on the media is underway. Only the hardened ideologues of the ruling party and the “victims” of press revelations can now surely believe anything else.
Yes, some good has come out of this horrible episode.
The World Cup organisers have done the right thing and fired guards belonging to Stallion Security who went on strike, threatening the security of Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Afterwards, the fired guards were astonished. Said Gugu Dlamini: “It is sad that they have fired us. I thought that they would allow us to continue working.” This remark is pathetic. Did Dlamini think that jeopardising a major national event for the country over some opaque wage dispute would result in no consequences?
Well, on second thoughts, perhaps she did. It is after all a fine South African tradition to allow workers to strike – even burn rail cars and physically harm others – without consequences.
For once, workers have been given their just deserts and chucked out for their irresponsible actions.
This incident and the decision by bus drivers for the BRT in Johannesburg to strike half way through a match leaving spectators stranded without transport puts South Africa’s great weakness on display.
Our strength is our people. They are kind, welcoming and love their country to bits.
But our weakness is also our people. They are greedy, selfish and couldn’t care about the national interest if there’s a fast buck to be made.
This appeared as the Sunday Times editorial today:
A MALAWI court has sentenced two gay men, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, to 14 years in jail with hard labour because of their sexual orientation.
The sentence represents a new low-water mark for tolerance on the African continent.
The temptation is to see this blatantly discriminatory act as the doing of an intolerant government.
But that would be a mistake. The Malawian government, like the Zimbabwean government and that of Uganda, is responding with populism to rising intolerance among the people of this continent.
This is borne out by the response of Malawi’s religious leadership to the sentence.
The chairman of the Muslim Association of Malawi, Sheik Yusuf Kanyamula, went so far as to describe the sentence as “lenient” — because homosexuals ought to be executed.
“The couple deserves punishment. Human beings should not behave like animals,” Kanyamula said.
The head of the Malawi Council of Churches, Canaan Phiri, welcomed the sentence. “As a church, we believe in a rule of a law. If the magistrate gave a sentence that is within the law, we have no problem.”
Such statements from religious leaders, who know better than most the high cost of intolerance, are more than alarming. They are the polished veneer behind which the worms of hatred eat away at the freedoms of tens of thousands of Africans.
Condemnation of the sentence came, predictably, from the US and Britain.
The British government said, somewhat optimistically, that the sentence “runs counter to a positive trend”.
The US called on the Malawian government to “respect the human rights of all of its citizens”.
Totally absent is any condemnation, however faint, by any government on the African continent.
The silence from the Union Buildings has been telling.
President Jacob Zuma has apologised for remarks to the effect that he could not bear to be in the presence of gay people, but there are lingering fears that he wishes to promote a socially conservative agenda which will roll back freedoms in the constitution.
He could easily dispel such notions by speaking out against the judicial persecution of the Malawian court and in favour of an open, democratic and tolerant society such as our own.
He, and his fellow leaders, have chosen not to do so.
We have a constitution which has ushered in unprecedented freedom, and we had better guard it closely.
The freedoms it enshrines are indivisible and choosing which of them to honour and which to neglect on the grounds of political expediency poses a grave danger.
The events of 2008 — when thousands took to South Africa’s streets to assault foreigners — illustrate with great clarity how unspoken intolerance can quickly turn to violence which threatens the foundation of our society.
The decision of the Malawian court poses a challenge to all of us. Do we remain silent in the face of gross intolerance, or do we defend our freedom?
We must all speak out.
THE murder of South Africa’s king of sleaze, Lolly Jackson, has not so much been mourned as observed with bemusement by all but his closest friends and relatives.
But we should not shrug off this killing, which has once more opened a window onto the deadly underworld with which we are forced to share our country.
Brett Kebble and the diamond-dealer, Hazel Crane, were earlier victims of the underworld.
The man sought in connection with shooting Jackson is one “George Smith” who may in fact be Cypriot Georgianos Louka.
He was apparently issued with a South African identity document which says he was born in this country.
There are other shady figures who inhabit this underworld, including one Radovan Krejcir, described as a “Czech fugitive”.
That such figures are able to assume South African identities and live normal lives without threat of arrest despite their shady activities speaks volumes about the extent to which our criminal justice system is failing to protect us.
For one thing, it suggests that there is a corruption at our Home Affairs department and that it is possible for the most nefarious of characters to launder their identities.
For another, it suggests that our police are happy to allow these sorts of thugs to co-exist with the rest of us in suburbia without raising a finger.
More than that, Smith is said to have called Gauteng’s crime intelligence boss, Joey Mabasa, to tell him he had shot Jackson.
Why a character of such obvious low morals has a hot line to a senior police commissioner is concerning.
But then again, a man accused of murdering Kebble and dealing in drugs, Glen Aglioti had a hot line to the former police commissioner, Jackie Selebi, suggesting that this is “how things work” in this country.
If there are legal loopholes which allow fugitives from justice to reside in this country with impunity, successive post-apartheid governments have, mysteriously, failed to close them.
This is why fugitive from justice, Vito Palazzolo, remains at large.
Palazzolo fled to South Africa while on 36-hour parole from a Swiss jail in 1986. The laws of the Ciskei homeland were amended to allow him residence and he has remained a free man in South Africa ever since.
He would not have managed to live on these shores without the collusion – open or otherwise – of the then National Party government and successive ANC governments.
Although there are now half-hearted attempts to return him to Italy, he appears to be laughing these off and – with rich irony – claiming that Italian prosecutors are reviving apartheid era ghosts to persecute him.
Palazzolo, Aglioti, Louka and Krejcir inhabit various rungs of the underworld ladder, but they have one thing in common: They provide evidence of how easy it is to manipulate the South African government into adopting a lenient approach to their disgusting deeds.
The rot is very deep indeed.
THE biggest danger facing the South African state is corruption and its sidekick cronyism. News that the communications minister, Siphiwe Nyanda is part owner of a company that has been awarded a R67.8 m tender by the Gauteng roads and transport department represents another setback.
There are several problems with this tender. The first is that, if the DA’s Jack Bloom is to be believed, the tender did not follow the correct procedure.
But that pales in comparison to the problem of cronyism. A cabinet minister should not be involved in companies that are awarded government tenders for obvious reasons.
There are any number of reasons why this represents a conflict of interests. For one thing, currying favour with a senior party member might open doors for an ambitious bureaucrat.
For another, it suggests that South Africa is not a country where businesses can compete on a level playing field for government business, a serious disincentive to investors.
Bloom points out: “This contract also appears to have grown in value, and was not reviewed to see if another company could do it more cost-effectively.”
All the above are compounded by the fact that Transnet on Wednesday dismissed two senior managers for manipulating a tender process involving GNS.
President Jacob Zuma made a promising start when he pledged to fight corruption. He did so amidst whispers of disbelief because of the long shadow cast by the conviction of his financial advisor Schabir Shaik on charges of corruption and fraud.
He needs to move quickly to regain public confidence. Cabinet ministers should follow the example of Tokyo Sexwale who placed his business interests at arms length on re-entering politics.
Perhaps the lesson here is: Don’t drink and spin.
In what appears to be his last interview before being arrested for drunk driving in Cape Town, the ANC’s spin doctor in chief, Jackson Mthembu defended Julius Malema’s singing of a song including the lyrics “shoot the boers, they are rapists”.
In a telephone interview with a Sapa journalist, Mthembu, perhaps feeling a little over-confident as one does after an early morning drinking session, actually sang the song out loud himself.
Here’s Sapa’s account:
“Let’s discuss appropriately on this matter. Don’t blame Julius. In fact, on this one, I will defend him,” ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu told Sapa by phone on Thursday morning.
“This song was sung for many years even before Malema was born. Julius doesn’t even know who’s the writer of the song. He got it from us [the ANC]. You must blame the ANC, don’t blame Julius. But when you blame the ANC, then contextualise it.”
Mthembu said the song was an old struggle song that Malema learnt from his ANC colleagues.
There were many songs in South Africa’s history that could offend people, he said.
“I know of songs that sing of generals, but let’s leave that aside,” he said, declining to name the song, but in a clear hint to the Afrikaans hit, “De la Rey”, about a general in the Anglo-Boer war.
The song Malema sang was not meant to attack boers, said Mthembu.
“If you don’t look at the song in its entirety, then you lose the meaning,” he said, before starting to sing it to Sapa during the telephonic interview.
YOU have to ask yourself how long Barbara Hogan will be allowed to continue as Public Enterprises minister following her public criticism of the ANC’s shareholding (via Chancellor House) in Hitachi Power, which stands to benefit enormously from Eskom’s controversial capital expenditure programme.
Eskom has a R385 billion construction programme and Hitachi Power has won contracts to build the boilers for two new power stations – Medupi and Kusile.
Some have estimated that the ANC could rake in a cool R5 billion from this association.
Hogan said on Monday: “A conflict of interest in a sense that the ruling party benefited from this thing? Yes, certainly it is not desirable.”
She is clearly not grasping the essence of the crony state which is there to provide money for the ANC and it’s elite through business dealings on the side. Just last week, President Jacob Zuma said he saw nothing wrong in Julius Malema benefitting from government contracts in the construction industry.
The Wild Frontier’s money is on Hogan getting herself reshuffled so that someone with a better understanding of the ANC’s relationship with money can take this portfolio.
YESTERDAY, Cosatu union Nehawu issued an unusual statement. It was a scathing comment on the pathetic state of public discussion under the heading “STOP INTOXICATING PUBLIC DISCOURSE AND FOCUS ON REAL ISSUES”.
The capital letters indicated the level of exasperation of the union with the high volume of mud being slung about by one or another faction within the ANC.
The statement said: “These puerile, attention seeking and rudimentary verbal sparring spats are an insult to the founding fathers of the New South Africa like Nelson Mandela who were principled, humble and inspiring leaders. Ours is a nation that was liberated through principled resistance and dialogue and we all should strive to defend and honour the legacy of all our heroes and heroines who sacrificed for our liberation and inspired our nation.”
What is certain is that their appeal for reason will be drowned out by puerile, attention seeking responses.
Just this week, the ANC Youth League rounded on the former Reserve Bank governor, Tito Mboweni, for taking the job of chairman of Anglo Gold Ashanti.
The appointment, which would until very recently have been greeted as evidence of transformation in the senior echelons of the economy was given this description:
“Tito Mboweni’s appointment into a mining corporation is not at all surprising and reflects the reactionary, nonsensical and backward views he expressed when he was the mis-Governor of the South African Reserve Bank that mines will not be nationalised in South Africa.”
Their anger appears to have stirred by Mboweni’s not questioning of the league’s plan to nationalise mines.
Nehawu’s despairing appeal will no doubt fall on deaf ears. But they are right to highlight the dangers posed by the poor state of the national debate.