Sunday Times reporter free on R5 000 bail

Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika made a brief appearance in the Nelspruit Regional Court on Friday and was released on R5 000 bail, TimesLive reported.

He was also ordered to surrender his passport.

Wa Afrika’s public arrest by the Hawks on Wednesday while a discussion on the African National Congress’s proposed media tribunal was under way nearby has drawn interest and criticism from the media, civil society organisations and opposition parties.

He was originally to have faced charges of fraud and defeating the ends of justice but on Thursday the case was dropped. However, he was not released, and the case was reinstated later that day.

His lawyers successfully applied for his release in an urgent application in the High Court in Pretoria on Thursday night.

TimesLive reported on Friday that Wa Afrika was interrogated at 2am on Thursday and was asked by a General Mapiyane, who was reportedly second in command in Mpumalanga’s crime intelligence, why he had written a story claiming Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza had resigned.

“I told him to search on Google to see if he will find such a story. He told me that he didn’t like my attitude,” Wa Afrika was quoted as saying.

Another police official, a Warrant Officer Molapo, reportedly asked him why he was writing about Mpumalanga “as there were eight other provinces to write about”.

Resignation letter
Wa Afrika also alleged that Hawks spokesperson Musa Zondi went to his home to collect his cellphone, although his lawyer Eric van der Berg said he would collect it.

“I want to know what a guy who is not a police official was doing with my phone?” asked Wa Afrika.

Reports had suggested his arrest could be related to his being in possession of a resignation letter purportedly signed by Mabuza, but which the presidency had declared a fake.

Wa Afrika co-authored an article last Sunday on a document police national commissioner General Bheki Cele allegedly signed, which related to a R500-million lease agreement for police headquarters in Pretoria.

The publication reported that this was a lease agreement that had not gone out to tender as required for expenditure exceeding R500 000.

At a briefing convened to clarify the “incorrect and worse, misleading” article, Cele told reporters in Pretoria on Tuesday that the document was not a lease agreement, but a “needs assessment”.

Sunday Times editor Ray Hartley said the paper had a copy of the signed lease in its possession.

It also published a scanned copy of the resignation letter thought to be at the centre of Wa Afrika’s woes.

Wa Afrika’s arrest came a day after Cele called him a “very shady journalist”, and when asked if he would take action against the reporter, he replied: “Time will tell”. - Sapa

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