'We have the right to decide who we associate with' - EFF defends its ban on certain journalists

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Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema.
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema.
Photo by Gallo Images/Felix Dlangamandla

The EFF says it is not "moved" by a statement released by the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) which condemned its decision to ban investigative journalism units, amaBhungane and the Daily Maverick’s Scorpio, from attending their party events, including press conferences.

EFF leader Julius Malema announced on Thursday, during the party's memorial service for former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, that the publications should be treated as the enemy, much like the EFF did when it banned Gupta-owned The New Age newspaper and broadcaster ANN7, News24 reported.

Malema also described the two publications as frauds, designed to pursue the interest of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

On Friday, Sanef said it was "appalled" by the party's decision. The forum said it believed the EFF's actions "mimic the apartheid state’s censorious responses to investigative reports that exposed its brutal and corrupt activities".

However, in a statement issued on Saturday, the EFF said it had the right to freedom of association.

"We will never be able to stop anyone from writing anything they want about EFF, but we have the right to decide who we associate with in our own events and platforms," spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said.

"This right is not an infringement at all of the right belonging to journalists to express themselves freely. They can express themselves freely, but not at the expense of our right to choose who we associate with.

"Journalism is meant to be grounded on an ethical and independent ethos. Once journalists are directly furthering political objectives, they cease to be journalists," he said. 

'Personal pursuit of the EFF'

The party said it refused to associate with people who were "politicised, masquerading as innocent journalists".

"They are all in a personal pursuit of the EFF, seeking its destruction and ultimate end. We choose to associate only with independent, ethical and upstanding journalists."

The ban comes after the units published an exposé on Malema, party deputy president Floyd Shivambu and Shivambu's brother Brian, as well as Malema's cousin, implicating them in the illicit flow of funds.

Scorpio uncovered a R16.1m transfer from VBS to Brian Shivambu's company Sgameka Projects – effectively a shell company.

Scorpio found that at least R5.3m of the R16.1m flowed to Mahuna Investments, a company belonging to Malema's cousin, according to official CIPC documents.

The publication reported that Malema used Mahuna Investments' business account as his "personal slush fund and alter ego".

Sanef has challenged Malema and other implicated EFF leaders to disprove these reports or to approach the Ombud's Office and the Press Council if they feel aggrieved at any aspect of the reporting.

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