NPA withdraws Wa Afrika charges
Johannesburg - Charges against Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi Wa Afrika and his co-accused Victor Mlimi will be provisionally withdrawn, a National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson said on Tuesday.
"The case docket containing evidential material was submitted to prosecutors in the NPA. After perusing the case docket we are of the view that it is desirable that the matter be fully investigated prior to taking a decision on whether or not to prosecute," read a statement by advocate Mthunzi Mhaga.
"We therefore deem it appropriate that the charges be provisionally withdrawn pending further investigations."
They had faced charges of fraud, forgery and uttering after being arrested by members of the Mpumalanga police and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations, a division of the police known as the Hawks, in August.
The arrest of the pair related to alleged possession of a resignation letter by Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza, which the presidency has said is a fake.
The NPA said once investigations had been concluded, the docket would be re-submitted and the case could be reinstated.
The charges will be formally withdrawn on Wednesday.
Wa Afrika was arrested on August 4 as a debate on the possible introduction of a media tribunal and the Protection of Information Bill was underway at his employer's headquarters in Rosebank, Johannesburg.
After being kept in custody, charges were withdrawn the following day, then reinstated. A court order issued by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria had him released ahead of his bail hearing.
He was finally released on R5 000 bail after an appearance at the Nelspruit Regional Court on August 6.
Mlimi is a deputy director for informal settlements in Mpumalanga.
Owed an apology
Sunday Times editor Ray Hartley was not immediately available for comment, but their online portal Timeslive quoted him as saying that National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele "owes wa Afrika an apology. A big one".
Wa Afrika's lawyer Eric van den Berg said they had been notified of the NPA's intentions and were pleased.
"It has been a shadow over him," said Van den Berg. Some critics felt the arrests were related to a story Wa Afrika had co-written about a R500m on police headquarter lease agreement, purportedly agreed to by Cele without it going out to tender.
The day before his arrest, Cele called him a "very shady journalist", and when asked if he would take action against the reporter, he replied: "Time will tell".