Former Prasa boss Lucky Montana has threatened violence against a former News24 journalist who revealed that his R13.5m property was partly funded with money that can be traced back to a beneficiary of dodgy contracts worth R4bn from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).
Pieter-Louis Myburgh wrote a story on April 30 explaining how money from controversial Pretoria tender mogul Mario Ferreira found its way to his former business partner before the latter used it to buy a sprawling property of more than 6 000m2 in the sought-after Johannesburg suburb of Hurlingham.
The property was then registered in Montana's name, even though it was paid for by third parties linked to Ferreira.
Montana tweeted on Thursday: "I've been writing a lot to respond to this idiot. I asked him the questions to demonstrate there's no substance to what he writes other than a personal vendetta. I will no longer entertain him. The next step is to search for this guy around JHB and beat the hell out of him."
When News24 contacted Montana about his tweet, he said: "I wrote it, the tweet is there, it's for you to write whatever you want to write guys. I don't need to confirm or reject anything," he said.
In his tweets, Montana defended himself against those who accused him of threatening a journalist by labelling Myburgh an "agent".
'To hell with' World Press Freedom Day
"He is not a journalist. The free press and journalist are protected by the Constitution. I do not regard this one as a journalist but a legitimate target for me," tweeted Montana.
Fellow journalists reacted with disbelief to Montana's threat, viewing his tweet as a threat to media freedom.
Montana hit back: "Get Adriana (sic) Basson to get Sanef (South African National Editors' Forum) to issue a statement of condemnation. I urge Sanef to use strong words this time. I have no place for Sanef."
When Myburgh tweeted to Montana: "On #worldpressfreedomday", Montana retorted, saying nothing would stop him.
"If the meaning of freedom is to violate me, injure my dignity and hurt my family, to hell with worldfreedomday (sic). I am now on a warpath and nothing will stop me," he tweeted.
Myburgh told News24 that Montana's threats come on the back of his recent investigative piece on Montana.
"It detailed how R11.5m flowed from a Prasa contractor, via a series of share transactions, into a property bought for Montana," he said.
He said the former Prasa CEO has not been able to properly explain why third parties linked to a Prasa contractor bought a property for him.
"This has clearly infuriated Montana, hence the threats," Myburgh said.
He said Montana's comment could not have come at a worse time as Thursday was World Press Freedom Day.
"The press and other media have played a crucial role in unearthing the rot that had set in at state-owned entities and government departments. I, like my many brave colleagues in the industry, will not be deterred from performing a vital task protected by this country's hard-fought-for Constitution," he added.
'Our reports speak for themselves'
News24 editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson said Montana's threat of violence against Myburgh was despicable, "even more so on World Press Freedom Day".
"People gave their lives for us to have free press where journalists can investigate without fear or favour," he said.
Basson said Montana's threats of violence showed that he was not an individual who cared much about the rule of law.
"Our reports speak for themselves. Mr Montana is not able to refute what we have uncovered and now threatens us with violence. It shows the type of person we're dealing with," he said.
On Thursday evening Sanef's Katy Katopodis said Montana's actions were unacceptable.
"Should anyone – Lucky Montana included – have an issue with a journalist's work, then they need to go through official channels. They should feel free to contact the Press Ombudsman," she said.