August 04 2010 at 11:02PM Get IOL on your
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Next » 1 2 As editors met on Wednesday to discuss the "horrors" of an African National Congress onslaught against media freedom, the Hawks arrested a Sunday Times journalist who wrote an article critical of the national police chief at the weekend.
A day after National Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele called Mzilikazi wa Afrika a "very shady journalist", he was marched out of his offices at the Avusa building in Rosebank, Johannesburg, just as editors emerged from a meeting about media freedom.
Sunday Times editor Ray Hartley, who attended the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) meeting, said the paper's lawyers had been unable to get a clear answer from the police on the charges against him and where he was being held.
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"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," Hartley said in a statement posted on TheTimesLive website.
"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."
Hartley said Wa Afrika was one of the authors of a story published on Sunday about the rental of new police headquarters at the cost of R500-million, allegedly without following the correct 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," said Hartley.
Initially, TheTimesLive website reported that Wa Afrika was arrested for the possession of what police claimed was a fraudulent letter of resignation from Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza to President Jacob Zuma.
"Wa Afrika was seized by police who became involved in a screaming match with senior editors about whether photographers could take pictures or not," reported Times Live.
Hawks spokesperson Musa Zondi said he would face charges of fraud and defeating the ends of justice.
The arrest came a day after Cele criticised Wa Africa at a press conference, where he called the Sunday Times article "incorrect and worse, misleading".
Cele told reporters in Pretoria that he did not sign a lease agreement - only a needs assessment.
"That one is a very shady journalist, very shady. He was expelled from the Sunday Times. Why did they bring him back?" asked Cele.
Asked if he would consider legal action against the publication and the journalists, Cele replied: "Time will tell." He added that he had not yet consulted with his lawyers.
Cele was referring to a case in 2004, when the Sunday Times dismissed Wa Afrika for allegedly trying to help a Travelgate-accused leave the country while he knew she had been arrested in the Parliamentary fraud scandal.