/ 4 September 2007

Sanco ask police to probe editor

The Gauteng branch of the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) will go to the police to find out whether Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya applied for amnesty over political activities during apartheid, the organisation said on Monday.

Earlier this month, Sanco asked the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) whether Makhanya had applied for amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for self-defence unit activities he had been a part of in the late 80s and early 90s.

On Monday, the organisation said the NPA had recommended they lodge the matter with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to investigate.

”We will be lodging the matter with the SAPS, including the evidence we have at our disposal.”

Sanco said the evidence included an article by Anton Harber from 2004 which indicated Makhanya was the author of an article from May 1991, ”wherein illegal activities were admitted”.

Harber directs the Journalism and Media Studies Programme at Wits University. He is former editor of the Mail & Guardian.

Makhanya is also a former editor of the Mail & Guardian.

”Crime can never be tolerated in our country and [we] maintain that whether the editor of the Sunday Times did apply to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is too an important an issue to ignore.”

The organisation said it expected the police to treat the issue with the ”utmost priority”.

NPA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said the authority had received a representation from Sanco and responded.

He could not however confirm that the NPA recommendation had been that Sanco go to the police.

This was a matter of a ”private correspondence” between the NPA and Sanco, he said.

On Monday night, Makhanya said he had no comment.

Earlier this month, Sanco national executive committee member Dumisani Mthalane rejected a Gauteng body’s call for a probe into Makhanya.

However a later statement from the Sanco national office said the Gauteng branch had the ”right to request” that Makhanya be investigated by the National Prosecuting Authority.

At the time, the Sunday Times Staff Association declared ”unanimous support” for Makhanya and called the request a ”cynical and transparent smear being levelled against him by opponents of the newspaper”.

The association said the story was being ”trotted out in lame and blatant retaliation for the newspaper’s revelations about Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang”.

The newspaper recently reported that Tshabalala-Msimang was an alcoholic and convicted thief, leading to widespread media coverage and debate. – Sapa