The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) is appalled by Economic Freedom Front (EFF) leader Julius Malema’s call for the “banning” of investigative journalism units, amaBhungane and the Daily Maverick’s investigative unit, Scorpio, from attending their party events, including press conferences on 13 September 2019.
SANEF believes these actions mimic the apartheid state’s censorious responses to investigative reports that exposed its brutal and corrupt activities.
Mr Malema called for this banning on Thursday during the EFF’s memorial service for former Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe. Speaking to party supporters, Mr Malema said the publications, “should be treated as the enemy, much like the EFF did when it banned Gupta-owned, The New Age newspaper and broadcaster, ANN7”.
He stated, “We declare them as an enemy of the revolution, they should never participate in our events, we should never answer any question from amaBhungane, Daily Maverick or Scorpio. Let them write any nonsense they want to write about us. We know [the person] who writes their questions is Pravin.”
The “ban” comes after Scorpio published an exposé on Malema, party deputy president Floyd Shivambu, Shivambu’s brother Brian, as well as a cousin of Malema’s, making allegations that they are involved in the illicit flow of funds from the plundered VBS.
Mapping out the VBS money trail, Scorpio has alleged that an R16.1m transfer has been made from VBS to Brian Shivambu’s company Sgameka Projects – effectively a shell company. Scorpio has further alleged that at least R5.3m of the R16.1m flowed to Mahuna Investments. Scorpio reported that Mr Malema used Mahuna Investments’ business account as his “personal slush fund”.
SANEF wishes to challenge Mr Malema and other implicated EFF leaders to disprove these reports and /or to use the appropriate channels such as the Ombud’s Office and the Press Council if they feel aggrieved at any aspect of the reporting.
SANEF believes it is unacceptable that the leader of the third-largest political party would engage in unconstitutional actions – actions that deny journalists the opportunity to work effectively by being refused the right to attend EFF’s meetings, press conferences and other activities. In doing so, Mr Malema fundamentally undermines the right to “freedom of the press and other media” which is guaranteed in section 16(1)(a) of the Constitution. Worse, he undermines the right of ordinary people, the voting public, “to receive information and ideas” – another right that is expressly provided for in section 16(1)(b) of the Constitution – as the press is the most significant channel through which people access political/current affairs information and ideas.
Mr Malema is titled an “Honourable Member of Parliament” and as an MP he has undertaken, as part of his oath of office, to uphold the Constitution. His calling for this ban of the country’s leading (and award-winning) investigative journalism units is at odds with the oath he took and with accepted standards of conduct for members of parliament.
In the wake of these attacks, we hope that members of parliament will condemn, in the strongest terms, the EFF Leader’s attempts to drag South Africa back to the days of apartheid censorship where media intimidation by apartheid leaders was routine. Mr Malema needs to be held to his oath to uphold the Constitution.
SANEF is currently involved in a court case against the EFF – focusing on stopping the intimidation and harassment of journalists. The matter was heard in August in the Equality Court. Judgement is reserved.
For more information please contact:
Sam Mkokeli – SANEF Media Freedom Chairperson, 082 084 2051
Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director 082 926 6404