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HuffPost South Africa: This Is Why The BLF Interdict Is Important

The media is far from perfect, but we're committed to help build a just and fair society.

07/07/2017 13:46 SAST | Updated 07/07/2017 14:15 SAST
Dino Lloyd/ Gallo Images
A small group of pro-Zuma members from Black First Land First (BLF) confront anti-Zuma protestors outside the Gupta's Johannesburg residence in April 2017.

COMMENT

When journalist Mandy Rossouw drove back from Durban a couple of years ago, she decided to make a detour past President Jacob Zuma's homestead at Nkandla in the KwaZulu-Natal hinterland.

Just to check it out. Just to see how it looked. Just to see where the head of state comes from.

What she found became Zuma's single biggest weakness and crippled his presidency. The burgeoning estate, financed and constructed by taxpayers' money, became symbolic of the corruption and greed that has come to characterise the Zuma era. It led to a damning finding by the public protector and scathing judgment from the Constitutional Court, and weakened a man who believes in presidential entitlement.

The judgment by Acting Justice Corrie van der Westhuizen in the Johannesburg high court on Friday, which ordered Black First Land First (BLF) and Andile Mngxitama, its militant mercenary leader, to stop intimidating, harassing and threatening journalists, is one of the most important pronouncements by South Africa's courts since 1994.

It acknowledges the rights of journalists to do their job without fear of intimidation and it prevents the disgruntled from resorting to illegal tactics.

The BLF has become increasingly militant and violent in its defence of the Guptas, the family at the centre of state capture in this country. Mngxitama, a disgruntled former politician, has established his organisation as the Guptas' brownshirts: attacking their opponents on social media, stoking racial division - with the help of London public relations firm Bell Pottinger - and recently physically attacking journalists who are exposing corruption and wrongdoing.

Like Rossouw's Nkandla exposès, the revelations around the Guptas have far-reaching consequences for South Africa. The family's influence on Zuma needs to be forensically investigated. We need to understand the extent and depth of state capture, the sprawling network of patronage and manipulation and the criminal network operating in government and elsewhere.

The media, whose role is protected by the Constitution, by law and by convention, must not be bullied or intimidated into submission. The media's job, its calling and conviction, is to challenge those with the power to account for their use of it. We must keep power in check, within the bounds of the Constitution and the Press Code.

We are starting to see the firmament underneath the rent-seekers and corruptors shift. The daily revelations about state capture have shaken the crooks, the governing party and the Guptas. It has accelerated change, even if it might not look like it. There is more, a lot more, to come. And there will be pushback.

HuffPost South Africa welcomes the judgment by the court and lauds the South African National Editors' Forum, led by chairperson Mahlatse Gallens, in taking a stand on behalf of us all. The South African media is not perfect, far from it. But it is wholly committed to helping build a fair and just society, free from corruption and state capture.