Police crime intelligence operatives have been detailed to monitor the activities of the left-wing extremist group Black First Land First’s (BLF’s) supporters and its controversial leader, Andile Mngxitama – Police Minister Fikile Mbalula has vowed to crack down on those who don’t respect the law.
This means BLF members face arrest should they openly defy a court order preventing them from harassing journalists.
The Citizen has been told by highly placed sources in the SAPS and crime intelligence that the BLF – which has resorted to intimidation and thuggery against journalists – is being closely watched and will not be allowed to carry out on “threats and possible harm” to reporters as Mngxitama and his subjects have vowed to do.
The information was confirmation of Mbalula’s stern warning to the BLF to desist from harassing journalists and to respect the rule of law.
Through his official Twitter account, Mbalula yesterday dared Mngxitama and his extremist group to test his determination on throwing the book at them for defying the law.
“We will act firmly against those who undermine the authority of the state – rest assured, it’s not a threat,” he said. He had earlier tweeted: “@Mngxitama and his brigade believe undermining the rule of law is revolutionary. We have a lot on our plate fighting crime.”
Judge Corrie van der Westhuizen last week interdicted the BLF and Mngxitama from intimidating or assaulting journalists and protesting at their homes.
Van der Westhuizen ordered the BLF to issue a statement in which the grouping clearly stated it did not condone actions of intimidation, harassment, assaults, threats, coming to their homes, or acting in any manner that would constitute an infringement of any journalist’s personal liberty.
The SA National Editors’ Forum had sought relief from the High Court in Johannesburg after Mngxitama’s supporters terrorised Tiso Blackstar editor Peter Bruce at his home. In a statement at the weekend, Mbalula warned Mngxitama that “the police will not hesitate to act against those who want to undermine the decisions of the court”.
“Minister Mbalula calls upon the BLF members to stop harassing and intimidating members of the media and respect the court judgment. In a democratic South Africa, freedom of the press is one of the celebrated freedoms. We have a duty … to protect that freedom,” the minister’s statement said.
Mbalula added that “action will be taken against those who are hellbent in undermining our democracy”.
Sources independent of each other told The Citizen anonymously that a clear example would be made by arresting Mngxitama and those in his group if they chose to defy the interdict.
“The minister has not hesitated with his instruction to the cops to nail this group if they want to continue with their threats against journalists. It is an irritation because we need to be using our resources in doing crime fighting rather than being preoccupied by thugs seeking popularity,” said one senior official.
Another said Mngxitama was in for a “rude awakening” if he wanted to defy the court order. “Instructions to arrest and prosecute are clear, and our guys are on standby,” the official said.