JOHANNESBURG – AmaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism journalists, Sam Sole, Micah Reddy, and Dewald van Rensburg, are expressing concerns about potential arrests following their recent exposé implicating businessman Zunaid Moti in a mining deal with Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The trio, renowned for their award-winning investigations into corruption, believe they are being targeted due to their work.
In letters addressed to senior officials of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), their attorney, Stephen May, asserts that a criminal complaint has been filed against amaBhungane and one or more journalists by Zunaid Moti or an employee within his group of companies.
May affirms that his clients are willing to cooperate with any investigation and will appear in court if summoned. He emphasizes that an arrest would infringe upon their constitutional rights, including media freedom, and argues that any case against them would be weak.
The attorney suggests that the potential charges may be connected to the case of Clinton van Niekerk, a former employee of the Moti Group, who was arrested earlier this year at Durban’s King Shaka International Airport on charges of information theft. However, Van Niekerk was subsequently released without charge after obtaining a court order from the Durban High Court.
May highlights that his clients had published investigative articles about Moti and his group of companies based on documents disclosed to them during their journalistic work. Moti alleges that the documents were stolen by Van Niekerk, who is also represented by May. The attorney argues that the criminal charges are likely an attempt to suppress the journalists’ reporting and curtail their freedom of expression.
May urges the authorities to refrain from unnecessary arrests and instead summons his clients to court, stressing the weak nature of any potential case against them.
In a separate development, Paul O’Sullivan, who has been acting on behalf of the Moti group, sent an email to the journalists accusing them of being criminals masquerading as journalists and using stolen goods. O’Sullivan threatens to pursue criminal charges against them. However, he clarifies that his email was sent in a personal capacity and not on behalf of the Moti group.
Zunaid Moti, who recently resigned as CEO of the group, denied any involvement in arrest warrants against the journalists. He stated that the allegations by amaBhungane were false and aimed at gaining sympathy while criticizing the journalists for using stolen information.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) have not yet responded to requests for comments on the matter.
The unfolding controversy raises concerns about the freedom of the press and the potential suppression of investigative journalism in South Africa. The case highlights the importance of protecting journalists who expose corruption and hold powerful individuals and entities accountable for their actions.
Source – Masimba Media/ DM