The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) said it was “appalled” by EFF leader Julius Malema’s call to ban investigative journalism units amaBhungane and the Daily Maverick’s Scorpio from attending their party events, including press conferences.
On Thursday, during the EFF memorial service for former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, Malema told party supporters that the publications should be treated as the enemy, much like the EFF did when it banned Gupta-owned The New Age newspaper and broadcaster ANN7, News24 reported.
Malema also described the two publications as frauds, designed to pursue the interest of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.
However, in a statement issued on Friday, Sanef said it believed these actions “mimic the apartheid state’s censorious responses to investigative reports that exposed its brutal and corrupt activities”.
The ban comes after the units published an exposé on Malema, party deputy president Floyd Shivambu, and Shivambu’s brother Brian, as well as Malema’s cousin, implicating them in the illicit flow of funds.
Scorpio uncovered a R16.1 million transfer from VBS to Brian Shivambu’s company Sgameka Projects – effectively a shell company. Scorpio found that at least R5.3 million of the R16.1 million flowed to Mahuna Investments, a company belonging to Malema’s cousin, according to official CIPC documents.
The publication reported that Malema used Mahuna Investments’ business account as his “personal slush fund and alter ego”.
Sanef has challenged Malema and other implicated EFF leaders to disprove these reports or to approach the Ombud’s Office and the Press Council if they feel aggrieved at any aspect of the reporting.
“Sanef believes it is unacceptable that the leader of the third-largest political party would engage in unconstitutional actions – actions that deny journalists the opportunity to work effectively by being refused the right to attend EFF’s meetings, press conferences and other activities.”
The forum said Malema’s call for a ban of the country’s leading investigative journalism units was at odds with the oath he took.
“In the wake of these attacks, we hope that members of parliament will condemn in the strongest terms the EFF leader’s attempts to drag South Africa back to the days of apartheid censorship where media intimidation by apartheid leaders was routine.
“Mr Malema needs to be held to his oath to uphold the Constitution.”