BLF‚ Mngxitama in contempt of court for harassing journalists

08 August 2017 - 14:10 By Ernest Mabuza
Black First Land First leader Andile Mngxitama. File Photo
Black First Land First leader Andile Mngxitama. File Photo
Image: Supplied

Black First Land First (BLF) and its leader‚ Andile Mngxitama‚ have been found to be in contempt of a court order issued last month which prevented them from harassing‚ intimidating and assaulting journalists.

Managing partner of the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism Sam Sole‚ Huffington Post SA editor-at-large Ferial Haffajee and the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) approached the High Court on Johannesburg last week‚ complaining that BLF and Mngxitama were in contempt of an earlier order by Acting Judge Corrie van der Westhuizen.

In that order‚ Van der Westhuizen interdicted BLF and Mngxitama from harassing‚ intimidating or assaulting a number of journalists‚ including Tiso Blackstar editor-in-chief Peter Bruce‚ who was harassed at his home by BLF members.

Bruce had written an article about the Gupta family‚ which BLF members were unhappy with.

In the new application‚ Sole‚ Haffajee and Sanef asked the court to find Mngxitama and BLF in contempt of court after they disrupted an “Inside the #GuptaLeaks” town hall event hosted by amaBhungane in Braamfontein‚ Johannesburg on July 27.

When the contempt application was heard on Tuesday‚ BLF and Mngxitama requested a postponement as they had not responded to the application which was served on them last Monday.

Judge Sharise Weiner refused the application for a postponement.

She said Mngxitama was given an opportunity to give his evidence in court on Tuesday‚ but he refused to take up that offer.

Weiner said it was clear from video footage of what had transpired on July 27‚ which was shown in court‚ that BLF and Mngxitama were in contempt of the order made by Van der Westhuizen.

Weiner said BLF and Mngxitama were entitled to disagree with the journalists about their views‚ but were not entitled to harass‚ intimidate or assault them.

The judge declined to order that BLF and Mngxitama pay a R100‚000 fine as requested by Sole‚ Haffajee and Sanef "in the interest of justice and peace and in an effort to curtail harassment".

The judge ordered that Mngxitama be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for three months.

However‚ the order of imprisonment was suspended on condition that BLF and Mngxitama did not breach the order by Van der Westhuizen.

She said if the order made last month was breached again‚ Mngxitama and BLF should be ordered to pay a fine of R100‚000 to the department of justice.

Weiner also ordered BLF and Mngxitama to pay the costs of Tuesday's application.