Johannesburg – Black First Land First (BLF) said it lodged complaints of assault and racism at the Hillbrow police station after a “white man” allegedly hit its leader Andile Mngxitama at an amaBhungane event on Thursday evening.
Hillbrow police, however, said only a case of intimidation was opened.
Mngxitama and his supporters were asked to leave the amaBhungane gathering in Braamfontein after they started shouting at journalists. The event was aimed at discussing state capture and the Gupta leaks.
Speaking to News24 from the Hillbrow police station, BLF spokesperson Zanele Lwana said four BLF members were at the event to "engage" on the topic when a white man allegedly hit Mngxitama.
She said a second group of black people singing at the entrance were not BLF "comrades".
"Out of the blue a white man in a blue T-shirt went straight to Andile and punched him and told him to ‘stop his bullshit’," Lwana said.
"We then stood to break up the confrontation when another amaBhungane journalist pushed back at us."
In a video clip, tweeted by former HuffPost SA editor Verashni Pillay, Mngxitama asks for an apology from event organisers.
"You all saw, I was sitting there and a white man comes to me threating tell me to stop my bullshit and you want to continue now here as if nothing has happened [sic]."
Pillay tweeted that BLF supporters pushed her off her chair.
South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) chairperson, and News24 politics editor, Mahlatse Gallens, said the BLF’s actions were in violation of a recent high court interdict.
On July 7, the High Court in Johannesburg granted Sanef an interdict to stop the BLF and Mngxitama from harassing, threatening, or intimidating journalists, or going to their homes.
"It is quite despicable that the BLF has no respect for the rule of law and our Constitution. They are now trying to shut down spaces for free expression," Gallens said.
"That is how desperate they are to shut down the exposure of the rot of state capture.
"If theirs is the truth, why do they need violence and intimidation to spread it? It is important that South Africa understands that we need to defend our hard-won Constitution."
Once the BLF supporters had left the gathering, amaBhungane managing partner Sam Sole said it was an attack on the one institution "holding the line".
"The Gupta leaks have been a game changer for the media, but also for our politics," Sole said in amaBhungane’s live stream of the event.
"We should not for one moment underestimate the Zupta faction. This is also a clear indication of desperation. The stuff we are publishing is having an impact."
Zupta is a conflation of Zuma and Gupta.
Sole used developments at the South African Reserve Bank, the SABC, and Treasury as examples of recent "victories" in the public sector.
The amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism is a non-profit company founded to develop investigative journalism in the public interest.
Together with the Daily Maverick and News24, amaBhungane has led the investigation into the emails leaked from the Gupta family. These have exposed the extent of the family’s influence in the South African public sector.