Sunday Times journalist to appear in court

2010-08-06 06:34

Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi Wa Afrika is due to appear in the KaBokweni District court this morning for a bail hearing.

He is facing charges of fraud and defeating the ends of justice.

Wa Afrika was released from jail late Thursday night after his lawyers successfully applied for his release.

Earlier in the day, Wa Afrika’s lawyer said the charges against him would be dropped.

“The prosecutor has said he has no case to answer and that they can’t prosecute,” Sunday Times lawyer Eric van den Berg said.

This was said around lunchtime at a meeting between Van den Berg, two prosecutors from the Hawks police unit and the control prosecutor from Nelspruit.

However, a few hours later Hawks spokesman Musa Zondi said the case was reinstated and would go ahead.

“... The prosecutors had earlier expressed that they did not see a case. Following further engagement with ourselves they have now decided to re-institute those charges as they are,” he said.

Reports suggested the journalist’s arrest could be related to his being in possession of a fraudulent resignation letter by Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza.

“I’m not sure if the charges were him being in possession [of the letter] or him being the author,” Van den Berg said.

Wa Afrika was arrested outside the Sunday Times office on Wednesday by members of the Hawks special police unit.

He was the author of a report critical of national police chief General Bheki Cele which was published on Sunday.

At a briefing convened to clarify the “incorrect and worse, misleading” article, Cele told reporters in Pretoria on Tuesday he did not sign a R500 million lease agreement for an 18-storey building in the capital city, but only a “needs assessment“.

If he had signed the lease, to run over 20 years, it would have meant had not followed correct tender procedures.

Sunday Times editor Ray Hartley said the paper had a copy of the signed lease in its possession.

Wa Afrika was arrested a day after Cele called him a “very shady journalist”, and when asked if he would take action against the reporter, he replied: “Time will tell.”

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