'Slapped' Beaufort West reporter to lay charge against ANC councillor

2017-03-09 18:22

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Cape Town – A Beaufort West journalist plans to lodge a criminal complaint with the police on Thursday after an ANC councillor allegedly slapped her phone out of her hand following a fraught council meeting.

"One of the councillors ran up from behind and slapped the phone out of my hand and caught the side of my face and ear," said Ethne Christie, a reporter for The Courier.

Proportional representation councillor Eveline Lawrence also allegedly tried to stand on her phone, and a group of people standing outside the council building threw gravel at her.

"I was very traumatised," said Christie. "They warned me that they know who I am and they will come after me. That is not comforting in a small town.

"I am going to lay a charge today [Thursday] because, I'm sorry, they are not going to intimidate me."

The incident occurred after a rowdy council meeting on Wednesday. The council is hung following the resignation of Democratic Alliance mayor Djorge Malooi last week.

This leaves the council with five DA councillors, one Karoo Democratic Force (KDF) councillor and six ANC councillors.

Chaos over vacancy

The KDF had been in a coalition with the DA, with the one seat giving the coalition the majority over the ANC.

According to Christie, the council meeting on Wednesday ended in chaos when councillors could not agree whether or not the deputy mayor, the DA's Magdalena Slabbert, was allowed to stand in until by-elections were held to fill Malooi's vacant seat.

The speaker, the DA's Euna Wentzel, eventually adjourned the meeting without a decision and members of both parties stormed out.

Christie said she wanted to take a picture of ANC councillor and former mayor Truman Prince, and the other ANC councillors caucusing in the street, when Prince started shouting that she could not take a photograph.

"He was furious with me."

That was when Lawrence allegedly smacked her phone away.

"I wasn't assaulted that I was hurt badly, but I was very traumatised and it was uncalled for," said Christie.

Forensic audit

Lawrence denied smacking the phone away.

"I am not so low to do that," said Lawrence, adding that she merely tapped Christie's phone and it fell to the ground.

She said the two bent down at the same time to pick it up and that she screamed at Christie, saying: "Don't do this, we don't want photos."

They spoke and Christie apologised to her, explained Lawrence.

DA constituency head Daylin Mitchell said on Wednesday that the animosity between the parties was sparked by an attempt to institute a forensic audit into some of the spending agreements that the previous ANC-run administration had entered into.

ANC Western Cape provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs dismissed the claim that the journalist was smacked, but said her phone fell during a confrontation.

"The journalist came to intrude our caucus, which is unheard of, taking photos and trying to record our discussions," Jacobs said in a statement.

"Journalists must report on council developments and not behave like private investigators sent to spy on ANC councillors' activities outside council," he said after the incident on Thursday.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  cape town  |  politics  |  media

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