Sunday Times journo, councillor released on bail

2010-08-06 10:11

Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Victor Mlimi, an ANC councillor and civil servant, made a brief appearance in the Nelspruit Regional Court and were released on R5 000 bail each.

Both were charged with fraud, forgery and uttering.

Uttering involves circulating money or a document that is fake.

City Press reported earlier that KaBhokweni police near White River started investigating teacher Prudence Ntimba of Mganduzweni Primary School last Thursday.

This was in connection with allegations that her partner, Mlimi, had asked her to fax a letter to a Johannesburg-based journalist claiming that Premier David Mabuza had resigned.

Mlimi works for the Department of Human Settlements in Mpumalanga and is an ANC councillor at the Ehlanzeni district municipality.

During the court appearance this morning, supporters of Mabuza chanted outside court, demanding to see Wa Afrika.

Wa Afrika was originally charged with fraud and defeating the ends of justice after his public arrest in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on Wednesday, but yesterday the case was dropped.

However, he was not released, and the case was reinstated later yesterday.

His lawyers successfully applied for his release in an urgent application in the High Court in Pretoria last night.

TheTimesLive website reported that Wa Afrika was interrogated at 2am yesterday and was asked by a General Mapiyane, who was reportedly second in command in Mpumalanga’s crime intelligence, why he had written a story claiming Mpumalanga premier Mabuza had resigned.

“I told him to search on Google to see if he would find such a story. He told me that he didn’t like my attitude,” Wa Afrika was quoted as saying.

Another police official, one Warrant Officer Molapo, reportedly asked him why he was writing about Mpumalanga “as there were eight other provinces to write about”.

Wa Afrika also alleged that Hawks spokesperson Musa Zondi went to his home to collect his cellphone, although his lawyer, Eric van den Berg, said he would collect it.

“I want to know what a guy who is not a police official was doing with my phone?” Wa Afrika asked.

Reports had suggested his arrest could be related to his being in possession of a resignation letter purportedly signed by Mabuza, but which the presidency had declared a fake.

Wa Afrika co-wrote an article last Sunday about a document national police commissioner General Bheki Cele allegedly signed that related to a R500 million lease agreement for police headquarters in Pretoria.

The publication reported that this was a lease agreement that had not gone out to tender, as required for expenditure exceeding R500 000.

At a briefing convened to clarify the “incorrect and, worse, misleading” article, Cele told reporters in Pretoria on Tuesday that the document was not a lease agreement but a “needs assessment”.

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

It also published a scanned copy of the resignation letter thought to be at the centre of Wa Afrika’s woes.

Wa Afrika’s arrest came a day after Cele called him a “very shady journalist”. When asked if he would take action against the reporter, he replied: “Time will tell”.

» The case against Wa Afrika and Mlimi was postponed to November 8 for further investigation. 

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