Statement by Ray Hartley, editor of the Sunday Times
THE minister of police has conceded that the arrest of Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika was wrongful and has agreed to pay him R100 000 in damages and the newspaper’s legal costs.
Wa Afrika was arrested just days after the Sunday Times published a story exposing then police commissioner Bheki Cele’s involvement in a dodgy lease deal for new police headquarters in Pretoria.
Cele has subsequently been fired following several investigations which upheld the truthfulness of the story.
Wa Afrika was denied access to legal counsel for 48 hours. He was transported by police van to Mpumalanga without the knowledge of his lawyer and interrogated in the early hours of the morning.
No case was ever brought against Wa Afrika in court, and the Sunday Times believes that he was the victim of an outrageous act of intimidation by the police.
“This was a full-frontal assault on freedom to report on corruption and it is comforting that the minister has acknowledged the arrest was wrongful. However, no amount of money can make up for the pain and suffering experienced by Mzilikazi,” said Sunday Times editor, Ray Hartley.
Here’s the interview with Jacob Zuma that we carried in the Sunday Times today:
President Jacob Zuma’s presidency is facing major challenges, including the public sector strike and growing dissatisfaction among some of those who helped place him in power. Ray Hartley and S’thembiso Msomi spoke to him at his office in Tuynhuys
RAY HARTLEY: The climate around the strike has been one of heightened rhetoric and there have been some exceptionally strong statements. Are you aware of the statements that Zwelinzima Vavi made about the “predator government” – that we are being run by “corrupt and demagogic political hyenas”?
JACOB ZUMA: The right for workers to strike is very important and we respect that.
The problem is then in the conduct of the striking people. I think that is where the problem arises of strong statements.
In old democracies, there are frequent strikes and it is not a big deal because they are purely industrial strikes. I think it important to accept that ours tend to be political and that is why the statements become very aggressive, very political.
It is an issue that the unions themselves have got to look at because of the changed circumstances from the struggle to now. How do you conduct a strike from that point of view – lest you are looked at as part of the opposition one way or the other?
The other element which I think is very important is: how do the striking workers respect the rights of other sectors or other citizens of the country? Do I as a citizen have no right to go to the hospital and get treatment – because the workers are striking?
Do we, when we strike, have to allow a strike to become violent – not just violent but actually have the lives of people being taken away? Read More…
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
A member of the Sunday Times staff, Mzilikazi wa Afrika, was arrested this morning. We have assigned lawyers to represent him and we are trying to establish what the charges against him are and where he is being held, so far without any success.
Our lawyers have been unable to get a clear answer from the police on either of these two questions.
I am deeply concerned at the fact that a journalist can be arrested and held at an undisclosed location in a country where the rule of law ought to apply.
He was arrested by a large number of policemen in an operation which was clearly designed to intimidate and I can only conclude that this was the true motive for what took place today.
Mzilikazi was one of the authors of the story which we published on Sunday about the rental of new police headquarters at the cost of R500m without following the usual tender proceedings. I hope, for the sake of our country, that he was not arrested on spurious charges in order to punish him for what he wrote.
We are doing everything in our power to have him released and we are doing all that we can to assure his well being.
THE beauty of the ANC’s freshly released document, “Media Transformation, Ownership and Diversity” is the party’s refreshing admission that it loathes criticism.
But to get to the honesty you first have to negotiate the doublespeak. The invention of the term “doublespeak” has been wrongly attributed to George Orwell. But Orwell did invent the notion of “doublethink”.
Here’s the sentence in which it first made an appearance: “His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them …”
The ANC’s document starts out as a sermon: “All of us have a responsibility to defend media freedom and editorial independence from any form of compulsion, be it political, economic or commercial.”
But the next paragraph starts with the telling qualification, “However”, and it is downhill from there. Sentences such as this appear: “(A) Cursory scan on the print media reveals an astonishing degree of dishonesty, lack of professional integrity and lack of independence.”
And: “The abuse of positions of power, authority and public trust to promote narrow, selfish interests and political agendas inimical to our democracy. This points to the fact that the problem of what is called ‘brown envelope’ journalism. This type of rot is a much more serious problem than the media is willing to admit.”
And the remedy? The “ownership and control” of the media must be addressed. “Freedom of expression needs to be defended but freedom of expression can also be a refuge for journalist scoundrels, to hide mediocrity and glorify truly unprofessional conduct. Freedom of expression means that there should be objective reporting and analysis which is not coloured by prejudice and self-interest.”
The proposal is that a Media Appeals Tribunal be established. Such a tribunal, the ANC is at pains to stress, would be accountable to parliament “instead of the ANC with all its bias and firm views”. It is hard to share the ANC’s faith in the independence of its MPs.
The truth about the media is very different to that which this document offers. The lion’s share of South Africa’s radio and television stations, which the ANC acknowledges reach an audience more than double that of print media, fall under the ambit of the public broadcaster, which some view as all but an official mouthpiece of the ruling party.
South Africa’s press is robust, highly competitive and diverse and, in the case of this newspaper’s owners, Avusa, has a strong empowerment shareholding.
But that’s not good enough. The ANC wants the mirror to say it is the fairest in the land, every hour, every day.
This weekend the Sunday Times reported how supporters of the ANC Youth League’s Julius Malema had begun a campaign against the promiscuity of President Jacob Zuma under the guise of an anti-Aids slogan “one girlfriend, one boyfriend”. More than one youth league leader spoke of the need for leaders who lived this message.
There can be no doubting that the league has decided it wants Zuma to be replaced as ANC leader at the 2012 conference, if not before.
But the decision to open up a new front against Zuma while still fighting in the trenches with the left, might be a mistake. Whoever they choose as a candidate to stand against Zuma will not have the backing of Cosatu, the SACP or those loyal to Zuma. That doesn’t leave very many standing.
And, you can be sure, Zuma will smile on the outside and be the reconciler, but the knife work will begin to diminish Malema’s influence, perhaps even remove him entirely from the organisation.
Malema may be the only one making the running in the party, but he does not yet have enough momentum to stand alone against the many enemies he is generating.
TODAY the Sunday Times reports that the ANC’s youth league leader, Julius Malema, is expected to plead guilty at a disciplinary hearing on Monday.
Malema is being hauled over the coals for a series of outrageous statements, including his public support for Robert Mugabe and comments that former president Thabo Mbeki was more tolerant of blustering rhetoric than president Jacob Zuma.
Malema is staring down the barrel because he faces a really tough committee which includes Collins Chabane, a minister in Zuma’s office, who is a political rival from Limpopo as well as Susan Shabangu and Zola Skweyiya who have already publicly rebuked Malema for earlier comments.
The strategy of a guilty plea appears to have been devised by ANC treasurer general, Mathews Phosa, who is set to represent Malema at the hearing and it is a wise one because it may result in leniency.
The league has a second strategy up its sleeve: It will claim that it has already apologised for the statements before the ANC leadership and that the hearing is not necessary.
The ANC believes the hearing is an internal matter, but there is immense public interest in the outcome because it will indicate just how much weight Malema’s aggressive policy platform carries in the ruling party.
Ahem. This falls in the shameless self-promotion department …
SUNDAY TIMES EDITOR MONDLI MAKHANYA PROMOTED TO EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF AVUSA MEDIA NEWSPAPERS
Thursday, 25 March 2010
Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya has been promoted to editor-in-chief of Avusa Media newspapers it was announced today.
Announcing the promotion Avusa CEO Prakash Desai said that in his new position Makhanya would be charged with setting up and running centres of excellence that will produce unique, original and compelling content for all of the group’s newspapers and websites. In this new role, he would also represent the interests of editors on the Avusa Media management committee.
The editor of The Times, Ray Hartley, will assume the editorship of the Sunday Times and the editor of Business Times, Phylicia Oppelt, will become the editor of The Times. They will both report to Makhanya as will all other editors of Avusa Media newspapers. Read More…
THERE was a moment when it seemed that Jacob Zuma was going the way of his predecessor. Access by journalists was limited, terse public statements were issued by officious spokesmen and then there came a succession of major blunders.
The most significant was the breaking news about Zuma’s affair with Sonono Khoza which had led to the birth of a child. The story was broken in spectacular fashion by the Sunday Times and Zuma’s camp responded with denials, intimidatory threats about the media invading privacy and an aggressive tone.
The result was a humiliating shambles which ended up with Zuma issuing a public apology that ought to have been issued the moment the story broke.
The second disaster occurred on his UK state visit. Zuma chose to take on a blogger who criticised him for his polygamy, showing anger and an intolerance of criticism that fuelled the belief that he was not fit for high office.
What is encouraging is that Zuma appears to have learned from these experiences. Politics is an impermanent business. Negative stereotypes can be easily overturned if the right strategy is adopted. And so, after two weeks of granting media interviews – including one to the Sunday Times – and getting out and about to show sympathy for the emergency workers who were raped, for example, Zuma’s image is at least stabilising.
Yesterday Zuma made his ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa his main spokesman on both party and state affairs. This will go a long way towards ensuring that a single direct message comes out of the presidency and it is a relief that those who goofed at the Union Buildings have been shifted out of the limelight.
Zuma has an opportunity to rebuild his image. But it will take a lot more than better spin doctoring. He must start to show results on his key objectives of job creation, health, education and crime fighting.
JACOB Zuma really he can hide his bizarre sexual behaviour (impregnating multiple women out of wedlock) behind the fig leaf of “culture”.
He appears blissfully unaware of how this whole thing is playing out there. He has lost respectability and is the standing joke at the taxi rank.
Instead of accepting this he wants to accuse those who are unhappy of disrespecting his culture. Is he seriously arguing that it is good idea for a 67-old man to have frequent unprotected sex with multiple partners half his age? This in addition to several marriages?
Yep, he is. Read this extract from the Sunday Times interview with him today:
“We need this conversation that must help us reach a common understanding as South Africans,” he said.
He appeared shocked and surprised by the outrage that followed the scandal, telling the Sunday Times: “There are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Pedis and so on … How do we live together with an understanding that we understand each other?
“Values may not exactly be the same, but how do we bring harmony to this?
“Since Madiba (Nelson Mandela) said we must live together in harmony, we have not taken that discussion further.”
He said that while the constitution championed “unity in diversity”, South Africans were still looking at “things differently”.
In an apparent reference to concerns about his polygamous marriages, Zuma urged “all (South Africans) to respect all cultures”.
“How do we judge our values as a society? How do we judge other communities with whatever they practise? We need to create some platform to strengthen the respect of one another. We need to create a platform where there is no community that does not respect another.”