The SA National Editors’ Forum condemns the treatment meted out to Sunday Times reporter Mzilikazi wa Afrika by the police while he was in custody.
Sanef is also appalled at the police’s refusal at first to disclose any information about the reasons for the arrest and their subsequent contradictory statements. It is deeply alarmed at the initial refusal to allow wa Afrika to contact his lawyer; indeed, of deep concern is the attempts by the police to spirit wa Afrika away so that his colleagues and the lawyer could not trace him.
In addition, Sanef chronicles the thuggish behaviour reminiscent of the apartheid state meted out to him, some of it likely to be unconstitutional and in breach of police regulations:
*The arrest being carried out without a warrant being produced;
* His reported questioning by senior police officers, who should know better, at 2am the morning following his arrest, a tactic verging on torture and reminiscent of apartheid’s detention without trial;
* The hostility toward him shown, according to the reports, by some of the questions asked and police responses to his answers, which also disclose attempts to pronounce judgments
on his journalistic role;
* The uncalled for large number of policemen who arrested him actively trying to censor the Press by trying to prevent photographers from taking pictures of the arrest;
* The charges dismissed by three prosecutors on the ground that they had no substance only to their being restored by the Hawks;
* The further development where an original charge against him of fraud and defeating the ends of justice disappeared and was replaced with charges of fraud, forgery and uttering,
indicating remarkable confusion;
* The unjustified refusal to grant bail initially, requiring wa Afrika’s employer, the Sunday Times, to make an urgent application to the High Court which ordered his immediate
Sanef has noted and welcomed Cabinet spokesman Themba Maseko’s assurances that the government has no plans to “muzzle the media in any shape or form”, but asserts with regret that the brutish treatment meted out to wa Afrika by government police officials belies this.
Sanef calls on the Independent Complaints Directorate to look into the police’s conduct in the handling of this case.
Issued by the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF)