Detained editor Zwelakhe Sisulu yesterday brought an urgent supreme court application for his release – just days after two Eastern Cape journalists were released in the face of a pending appeal against their incarceration.
In each case the state cited journalistic activities as the reason for the detentions, contradicting earlier government assurances that no journalist was in detention for professional reasons.
Sisulu, editor of the New Nation, had been told that his alleged membership of the National Education Crisis Committee's executive – which Sisulu denies – was the reason for his 11-month incarceration.
But in court papers this week security policeman Major Cornelius van Wyk said the reasons for the editor's detention "were mainly based on his involvement with the New Nation. "He was . . . actively involved in writing and publishing articles in this newspaper, which led to the creation of conditions for unrest," Van Wyk said.
King William's Town journalists Mxolisi Fuzile and Phila Ngqumba were told that their activities in the Veritas News Agency had resulted in their detention. In papers opposing their application for release, Major Andre Nel, branch commander of the security police in King William's Town, said they were being held because of an alleged plan to publish a community newsletter, and because they reported consumer boycotts. "It is my experience," Nel, said, "that such publications contributed to and furthered public unrest and disorder."
On Wednesday, one day after his release from detention, Fuzile was back at work in the news agency. "We will continue where we left off,' he said. Ismail Mahomed, who is appearing for Sisulu, argued that there were several grounds' for his release.
- Sisulu's detention order did not comply with requirements to name the prison in which he would be detained.
- The minister of law and order – when deciding whether or not Sisulu's further detention was necessary – did not consider for how long his incarceration should continue.
- Sisulu's arrest was unlawful – as he was not given the cause of his arrest – therefore his detention was unlawful too. As there is a dispute of fact on this point Mahomed said it would be necessary to call oral evidence if the other grounds for Sisulu's release were rejected by Judge MJ Strydom.
Mahomed also argued the State of Emergency itself was invalid as the sue president did not set out the precise jurisdictional grounds in terms of which he was acting. The application continues today.
* Five journalists, apart from Sisulu, are still in detention. They are: Port Elizabeth freelance journalist Brian Sokutu, Vincent Mfundisi of SABC-TV, Soweto freelancer Themba Khumalo, Maropodi Mapalakanye, Transvaal regional organism for the Media Workers' Association of South Africa, and Mbulelo Grootboom, of Oudtshoorn's community newspaper, Saamstaan. – Jo-Ann Bekker & Franz Kruger
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.