Charges of fraud, forgery and uttering against Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Mpumalanga government employee Victor Mlimi were withdrawn in the Nelspruit Regional Court on Wednesday.
“The charges were withdrawn in court. Both accused were present with their legal representatives,” said National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson advocate Mthunzi Mhaga.
The court ordered that some items, including a passport, be returned. The two were arrested on August 4 on charges of fraud and defeating the ends of justice, The charges were withdrawn briefly
before the other three charges were brought against them.
A third person, who was originally arrested, was not on the charge sheet.
The case is thought to be linked to a letter of resignation by Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza sent to President Jacob Zuma, which Zuma’s spokesperson declared a fake.
Wa Afrika’s arrest in particular drew condemnation from many quarters, as it was carried out by special police unit the Hawks, which focusses on priority crimes, while a debate on the ANC’s proposed media tribunal and the Protection of Information Bill was taking place in the building where Wa Afrika works.
It also came after he co-wrote an article on a R500-million lease police National Commissioner Bheki Cele purportedly approved without tender for new police offices. Cele called Wa Afrika “shady” at a press conference after the article was published.
The SA National Editors Forum said it was delighted by the NPA’s decision, and also called for an investigation into the matter by the Independent Complaints Directorate, which probes complaints relating to police conduct.
“The treatment meted out to Wa Afrika follows several complaints Sanef has made to the minister of police and the national commissioner of police, as well as senior police officers over the arrest of journalists at crime scenes on trumped up charges, which have been promptly thrown out of court by the prosecutors.” – Sapa