The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) is outraged at reports that journalists in Mpumalanga are on a hit list targeting corruption busters in the province.
The existence of the hit list first surfaced in Sunday World of January 10 and has been repeated in Friday’s Mail & Guardian. So far two provincial government officials said to have been on the list have been murdered. Samuel Mpatlanyane, Mpumalanga’s sports and culture department head of communications, was shot dead by assassins during the night last week.
Vusi Shongwe, the province’s sports and culture minister, has blamed the murder on the same people who killed Mbombela municipality speaker Jimmy Mohlala. Mohlala was similarly executed at home in front of his son last January. He was a witness in a disciplinary hearing concerning financial mismanagement related to the Mbombela Stadium, a Fifa 2010 World Cup Venue.
The murder and threatened murder of potential witnesses and journalists puts a nasty twist to South Africa’s struggle against corruption.
Sanef deplores the loss of life so far and urges anybody with information about the alleged hit list to inform the police without delay.
The police should leave no stone unturned in their effort to bring those behind the barbaric acts of murder and intimidation to book.
It is against this background that the editors’ forum pledges its full support for Philani Makhanya, the news editor of The Mercury, who has laid a charge of intimidation against a politically-connected Durban businessman for allegedly threatening his safety.
Interestingly, the prominent, high-spending businessman is a friend of Bheki Cele, the national commissioner of police. As Angela Quintal, the editor of The Mercury, says in her supporting affidavit, the newspaper, like all media, has “a special duty to uphold the principle of freedom of expression and to eliminate dishonesty, news suppression and censorship”.