EFF denies involvement in attacks on journalists

19 December 2018 - 17:00
By Naledi Shange
EFF leader Julius Malema.
Image: Thulani Mbele/Sowetan EFF leader Julius Malema.

The Economic Freedom Fighters on Wednesday denied having anything to do with the recent attack on Tiso Blackstar journalist Ranjeni Munusamy.

TimesLIVE issued a story earlier in which Munusamy detailed how she had been  confronted by three men at a Johannesburg shopping centre in November.

Munusamy said this had happened in the weeks after EFF leader Julius Malema had singled her out for criticism, and accused her – during a live media briefing and in front of EFF supporters protesting outside the state capture inquiry hearings – of being part of an "Indian cabal",  a "politician" and protecting minister Pravin Gordhan and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s political interests.

Her revelations were contained in a sworn affidavit as part of the SA National Editors Forum (Sanef) court case against the EFF and its president, Julius Malema.

In a statement issued by party spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, the EFF said it had never threatened the lives of any journalists.

"The EFF has been consistent in its message to its supporters that our battle with these individuals is an intellectual one based on ideas and not on physical violence," Ndlozi said, referring to their recent clashes with Munusamy and several other journalists.

"In essence, our campaign to look out for them and their work on social media is a pure ideological exercise.

"No leader or structure of the EFF has ever called on violence with the media or journalists. No leader of the EFF has even called on any journalist's house address to be published. Instead, it is the leaders of the EFF whose home addresses are published and displayed through GPS images," he added.

The EFF said it was aware of Sanef's complaint against them filed at the Equality Court.

Sanef said the complaint was lodged in a bid to halt threats and harassment directed at journalists by the EFF and Malema. 

"We did not take this decision to institute legal action against the EFF lightly. We believe in the South African way of resolving disputes around a table‚ but Sanef has been unsuccessful in seeking a meeting with Mr Malema and other EFF leaders about the remarks which we view as blatant hate speech‚" Sanef said in a statement on Wednesday.

Sanef wanted to meet the red berets in November but secretary-general Godrich Gardee said the party's schedule was "very tight and fully booked with prearranged meetings and activities up until the elections date".

This was despite the general elections being scheduled for May 2019 - six months away.

Responding to this, Ndlozi said the legal action was nothing but an attempt to try to  silence the party from challenging certain journalists and personalities who the party had accused of being politicians.

"Many journalists have seen through the hypocrisy of Sanef, and have started to call on journalists not to descend into the arena and remain neutral. We will never be intimidated, and shall speak the truth even if it means prison," he said.

Sanef, however, said it had approached the court under the banner of defending media freedom and seeking protection of journalists against intimidation and threats by the party's leaders and supporters.

"Women journalists in particular have borne the brunt of an avalanche of insults levelled against them‚ particularly on social media. The journalists who have reported critically on the EFF have been called 'whores'‚ 'witches'‚ 'bitches' and 'c***s'‚ and calls have been made for them to be raped and attacked by staunch EFF supporters‚" said Sanef.

While the complaint has been lodged‚ the forum said it was also demanding an apology from Malema.