Make no mistake - "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING"
There is mounting evidence that political pressure lay behind the arrest this
week of Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Africa, despite furious denials
from police top brass.
A senior police official close to the case admitted yesterday that police were
feeling the heat from ANC politicians to crack down on wa Afrika, because of his
"Ja - it's political pressure," he told the Sunday Times.
Yesterday, Mabutho Sithole, a spokesman for Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza,
confirmed the premier had laid the initial complaint, at the Kabokweni police
station in Nelspruit, which culminated in wa Afrika's arrest.
Mabuza, a controversial figure in Mpumalanga, has been the subject of various
articles in the Sunday Times and other publications.
The complaint was sparked by a letter faxed to the Sunday Times, in which Mabuza
supposedly states his intention to resign as premier. Mabuza insisted the letter
was a forgery and that he had no intention of resigning.
"He (Mabuza) complained to the police here at Kabokweni after we got a copy of
the letter and received information that there were people in possession of a
letter bearing his name and signature," said Sithole.
Wa Afrika was arrested at 11.15am on Wednesday outside the Sunday Times building
in Rosebank, Johannesburg.
Minutes earlier Sunday Times lawyer Renier Spies had been negotiating with
Kabokweni station commander Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Mabasa at Rosebank police
station not to arrest wa Afrika at his office, but rather to allow the
journalist to hand himself over at the station.
"In the meantime (Mabasa) contacted a general' whose further particulars are
unknown to me, via his cellphone," said Spies. "According to (Mabasa), the
general he spoke to was on his way to the station and wanted to join us."
Minutes later, several police vehicles with sirens blaring pulled up alongside
wa Afrika outside the Sunday Times building while he was walking to the police
station. Police bundled him into an unmarked vehicle and drove off at high
At 7pm on Thursday night, the Sunday Times went to the High Court in Pretoria to
bring an urgent application for wa Afrika's release. Just before 10pm, acting
Judge Johan Kruger ordered his immediate release following an agreement with the
state. Wa Afrika was released at 10:30pm on Thursday night.
He appeared in Nelspruit Regional Court on Friday on charges of fraud, forgery
and uttering. He was released on bail of R5000 and is scheduled to appear again
on November 8.
Spies said he was convinced there was "political pressure on (Mabasa) to effect
This is borne out by the line of questioning police adopted when interrogating
wa Afrika and fellow suspect Victor Mlimi, a senior provincial government
official, at the Nelspruit office of the police's provincial Organised Crime
Unit on Thursday.
"I was asked whether I was directly or indirectly involved in discrediting
senior ANC office bearers in Mpumalanga," said wa Afrika. "That made me wonder
whether the police were investigating a criminal or a political case.
"They also wanted to know who are the big politicians I'm working with behind
the scenes. This made me conclude the police were sent by politicians to harass
and intimidate me."
Mlimi's lawyer, Daniel Mabunda, said his client was questioned for two hours
about the ANC's provincial leadership succession battles, and which political
camp he supported.
"I was present when my client was asked, Are you destroying the image and
integrity of the ANC in Mpumalanga? I advised my client not to answer that
question. It struck me that this has more to do with politics than a criminal
The day before the arrest, police chief General Bheki Cele had referred to wa
Afrika as a "shady journalist", in response to an article he co-authored about
the police chief's involvement in clinching a R500-million lease agreement,
without going to tender, with billionaire businessman Roux Shabangu.
The vigour police used to pursue wa Afrika also raised eyebrows. The case was
opened at Kabokweni police station on Monday and wa Afrika was arrested two days
Police have yet to arrest anyone connected to the deaths of Mbombela speaker
Jimmy Mohlala and provincial arts and culture spokesman Sammy Mpatlanyane - both
of whom appeared on an alleged hit list that emerged last year .
Mohlala was gunned down outside his house by three masked men in January 2009 in
Kanyamazane township outside Nelspruit. Mpatlanyane was shot in his Nelspruit
home in January 2010.
"Those murders are still under investigation," Hawks spokesman Musa Zondi told
the Sunday Times yesterday.
The visible lack of progress in these cases contrasts with the swift action
taken against wa Afrika, one of the journalists who exposed the alleged hit
Cele's spokesman, Nonkululeko Mbatha, told the Sunday Times yesterday "the
semblance and impressions you have are not factual". "Police have instituted a
probe which is ongoing and appealed to members of the public who might have
information to come to the fore."
Asked about the negative impression created by the police's heavy-handed action
against wa Afrika, she said: "I cannot undo that impression but the fact of the
matter is no one is immune from investigation of what is suspicious of criminal
nature. Lastly, insinuations about a directive issued by the general (Cele) to
apprehend or intimidate the journalist are incorrect and a figment of
Mabuza's spokesman also denied exerting any political pressure on police, or
that the arrest was an attempt to intimidate wa Afrika and derail his
investigative reporting on the murders.
Filed under: And now for the facts..!, Blatant Bantu Bullying, Incompetent and
KVB Nuus Kantoor