South African journalist Paul Nthoba has fled the country and he is in hiding in Lesotho.
Nthoba, who was allegedly assaulted and insulted by the police in Ficksburg, Free State, last Friday, claims his life is at risk.
“My safety is the main concern right now. The police officers who assaulted me are still at work and cars are driving up and down monitoring my house, while other cars can be seen parking in my street.
“I received a call from one senior officer, who was present when I was assaulted at the police station, who wanted to get my residential address.
“I asked him why he was looking for it and I advised him to check the address in my docket. He didn’t say why he was looking for my address,” said Nthoba, the founder and editor of Mohokare News.
Police spokesperson Vish Naidoo said the matter was being investigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) and “we don’t comment on any cases that are investigated by them”.
The former SABC journalist confirmed he had a meeting with an Ipid official on Monday. “I met the Ipid official and we discussed that a supplementary statement would be taken from me,” he said.
Mahlatse Mahlase, chairperson of the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), called for the police to ensure the protection and safety of the journalist.
“Sanef is deeply concerned Nthoba has been forced to flee the country and seek refuge in Lesotho. Nthoba told Sanef that he decided to seek refuge at the UN offices in Lesotho because he feared for his life.
“Following the assault, he has seen marked police vehicles patrolling his street and another parked in the street a few metres from his home, with no explanation. His family became extremely concerned and he decided to flee.”
Ipid issued a statement on Wednesday night saying its investigator met Nthoba at his aunt’s place and, after the meeting, an agreement was reached for a follow-up meeting.
“However, when our investigator was trying to make contact he could not reach the journalist as his mobile was always off. So far, Ipid is not aware of any danger on the journalist’s life.
“We have not yet made any arrest as we are still gathering enough evidence which, upon completion, will be presented to the National Prosecuting Authority for decision.”
However, Nthoba disputed Ipid’s version: “For them to say I’ve never shown any concern for my safety is a total lie. I raised the issue of my safety with the investigating officer and that’s why I had to make arrangements to meet him at my aunt’s place because I told him I’m in hiding.
“They said I should call them when something happens. What if I won’t get a chance to call them? What if I do call and they don’t arrive on time?”