Charges against journo reinstated

2010-08-05 15:54

Detained Sunday Times’ journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika is expected back in the KwaBokweni court in Mpumalanga tomorrow to face charges of fraud and defeating the ends of justice.

This is according to Musa Zondi, spokesperson for the Hawks.

“The charges are not being dropped. It seems the prosecutor at some stage decided not to prosecute, but after engagement with the police, he decided to reinstate the charges and will continue with the prosecution,” Zondi said.

Sunday Times’ website had earlier reported that Wa Afrika was not released even after the prosecution had decided against pursuing the case.

Ray Hartley, editor of Sunday Times, said that the prosecution had dropped the charges because of lack of evidence. “The police are refusing to release Wa Afrika from custody in flagrant violation of the spirit of the law.”

Hartley also expressed concern about “the ‘second suspect’ in this case who was arrested more than 48 hours ago, but has not been brought to trial”.

Zondi said that he believed the “second suspect” had been in court today. However, Sizwe Sama Yende, a City Press reporter based in Mpumalanga, confirmed that no “second suspect” had appeared in the KaBokweni court by the close of business today.

Captain Leonard Hlathi, police spokesperson in the province, said earlier that a delay had been caused because police were busy with paperwork in Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit).

He later confirmed that two suspects would appear tomorrow. Hlathi could not comment on a possible third suspect.

Wa Afrika’s arrest has caused an outcry within the media community, with some fearing that his arrest signals the beginning of a crackdown on media freedom and what his editor, Hartley, calls a “campaign of intimidation” by the government.

His charges apparently relate to a letter alleging that David Mabuza had resigned as premier of Mpumalanga.

»?According to a statement by Hartley, Wa Afrika’s legal representatives would seek an urgent interdict in the high court in Mbombela to have him released from jail. It is, however, not clear whether the statement was made before or after the reinstatement of the charges.

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