Cosatu calls for public inquiry into Wa Afrika saga

A “thorough public inquiry” into the arrest of Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika, is needed, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Wednesday, welcoming the withdrawal of charges against him.

“There needs to be a thorough public inquiry into the whole episode, including who ordered the arrest and on what charges, and we shall demand strong action taken against anyone found to have acted illegally,” Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said in a statement.

“Cosatu has often been critical of some of the media, but all journalists and editors can be assured that the federation will always support them to the hilt when they are investigating and exposing corruption and crime,” Craven said.

The trade union federation and ANC ally said it would “fight any attempt to restrict their [journalist’s] access to incriminating evidence or to stop them naming and shaming those involved.”

The charges against Wa Afrika and Mpumalanga human settlements department deputy director Victor Mlimi, were provisionally withdrawn in the Nelspruit Regional Court on Wednesday.

They were arrested on August 4.
 
The case is believed to be linked to a letter of resignation by Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza, which the presidency declared a fake.

Freedom Front Plus
The Freedom Front Plus on Wednesday said the arrest, then subsequent provisional withdrawal of fraud, forgery and uttering charges against Wa Afrika, proved that law enforcement authorities acted too hastily.

“The fact that the charges against Wa Afrika have now been withdrawn proves that the [National Prosecuting Authority] and the police acted over-hastily,” party leader Pieter Mulder said in a statement.

Mulder continued: “...On which grounds is a journalist arrested and detained if there is so little of a case against him that the case is thrown out of court?”

He felt the damage was worse as it came during a debate on media freedom.

Inkatha Freedom Party
The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) called the arrests an “abuse of power”.

The party’s safety and security spokesperson Velaphi Ndlovu called on the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) to launch a full and urgent investigation.

“If there was insufficient evidence for prosecution, why was Wa Afrika arrested in the first place? The impression that has been created is that Wa Afrika’s arrest was a political arrest. The IFP therefore calls on the ICD to launch a full investigation into this matter.”

CWU
The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) also sprang to Wa Afrika’s defence with spokesperson Matankana Mothapo saying journalists were treated and rebuked in South Africa when they “speak truth to power”.

This was not what anti-apartheid activists and writers such as Ruth First, Chris Hani and Harry Gwala fought for, said Mothapo.

The police’s priority crimes unit the Hawks said their investigation would continue.—Sapa

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