Bayede News editor-in-chief Nhlanhla Mdaka believes the raid on the newspaper’s offices by armed men on Saturday was aimed at putting the KwaZulu-Natal-based isiZulu language newspaper group out of business.
Mdaka told the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday that the five armed men who held up security guards at the paper’s Hillcrest office park had taken servers and computers, but had left behind cabling, keyboards and monitors.
“Thieves steal for resale. In this case only the servers and boxes were taken, which would make resale of the equipment more difficult. They left behind things which were more valuable. It is clear to us that they were looking for something. That’s how it looks,” he said.
Armed men stormed the offices which are occupied by Igunundu Press, the company which runs Bayede, the free of charge Ubukhosi News and Iphepha LaboHlanga, a Sunday broadsheet at around 10am on Saturday.
Mdaka said they were unable to publish Sunday’s edition of Iphepa LaboHlanga, which was launched on March 24, because of the robbery.
“It was strange that they came at 10am on Saturday when we were to print the following day. Fortunately nobody was in the office at the time,” he said.
“We are a small company. We can’t avoid thinking that this was aimed at killing us off. The people who did this know that if they take away our equipment, it will affect production for more than one edition, for at least a month,” he said. “Insurance is likely to pay but this will take time.”
‘’This was meant to disrupt our production.’’
‘’Iphepa LaboHlanga was launched on the basis of coverage of the election. If we are unable to come out with the results and analysis as anticipated, it can kill us off,’’ he said.
Mdaka said the group’s newspapers had been dealing with a number of sensitive stories, ranging from corruption in the land reform to tender fraud at municipal level, in recent weeks.
Mdaka said that while nobody was on the premises, staff were traumatised by the attack.
‘’People don’t want to be here at the weekend or at night. There is trauma involved here,’’ he said.
Mdaka said they were doing ‘’everything possible that we can’’ to ensure that Bayede came out as usual on Friday.
‘’Zulu speaking people, particularly in rural areas, are waiting for our election coverage. We don’t want to fail them,’’ he said.
Mdaka said that SAPS Hillcrest was investigating the robbery.
SAPS spokespersons had not responded to calls from the M&G at the time of writing.