10/07/2017 10:31 SAST | Updated 10/07/2017 16:06 SAST

Black First Land First Says Media Is Lying About Intimidation, Journos Say Otherwise

BLF's leader Andile Mngxitama said the organisation had fully complied with the court order, despite claims by journalists and editors of intimidation moments after a court interdict against BLF was granted.

Black First Land First (BLF) has "fully complied with the court order" preventing harassment and intimidation of journalists and denounces the "lie told to intimidate BLF members" that it had not complied, the movement's leader Andile Mngxitama said on Sunday.

But while addressing journalists outside the court on Friday, political analyst Karima Brown said: "We've just been handed an interdict that is supposed to protect us from intimidation. We are being intimidated as we speak and the police are not here. This is exactly what happened outside of Peter Bruce's house."

Sanef deputy chairperson Katy Katopodis told HuffPost SA on Friday that "the reality is that the moment the judge granted the interdict -- just a few minutes after that -- the BLF started hurling abuse, threatening and intimidating us, our colleagues and the chairperson of Sanef, Mahlatse Gallens."

In a press conference on Sunday, Mnxgitama said the organisation learnt through media reports that the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) said BLF had not complied with the court order.

"Sensational headlines from white-owned media project BLF as a criminal organisation," Mngxitama said. He said BLF had issued a statement across its platforms within 12 hours as directed by the court. Media reports suggesting a violation of the court order were an act of "grandstanding" by Sanef and an "attack on the freedom of movement and expression" of the movement.

He berated Sanef for "behaving like a politician who has just arrived from London, with lots of British Pounds from the colonialist Robin Renwick to come and affect regime change in South Africa," he said. "Sanef is grandstanding; they come and make a lot of empty noise".

'We are being intimidated right here'

Shortly after court proceedings on Friday, Sanef's chairperson Mahlatse Gallens told journalists: "It is unfortunate that within minutes of the judgment being delivered, we had our reporters, editors, commentators being insulted, harassed and threatened by BLF".

Insults directed at black 'puppet' journalists

Gallens said insults hurled minutes after the court proceedings were directed at black journalists in particular. "People like Karima Brown and Ferial Haffajee were called askaris".

"This is the level of the insults that we are getting from the BLF, which is why we came to court. We have proven in court that these are criminal actions and we need police to step in," Gallens said.

Brown said on Thursday, the first day of court, a BLF member "put her foot in my back for the entire time the court proceedings were going on". Brown said on Friday, shortly after judgment, she was told she was "doing it again by the same person who knocked the glasses off my face outside of the house of Peter Bruce".

"They kept saying we as black journalists are not the enemy, we are puppets," Brown said. "They insulted Mahlatse as if she has no agency to speak for herself. It is really interesting that black men from the BLF are telling black female journalists that we can't think for ourselves, that we are the agents of white monopoly capital and our bosses," she said.

Gallens said it was unfortunate that BLF used race in their campaign as a tool of deflection. Mngxitama on Friday after the judgment said the organisation would continue to monitor white journalists but would not protest actions by black journalists who were "suffering an identity crisis" and "believe they are white".

"It is quite important that South Africans take up this battle because if we allow the threat to continue, who knows what will happen next? We can't have a situation where journalists are not allowed to do their work or are threatened. We all have to take a stand as South Africans," Gallens said.

In his judgment in favour of Sanef on Friday, acting judge Corrie Van der Westhuizen said: "The life of a journalist is not easy. The profession of a journalist, and in particular that of an investigative journalist, is seldom appreciated. More than often it is criticised. The public often frowns upon the reporting of a journalist. His or her actions are continuously subjected to criticism or alleged bias or sensation. Seldom a word of gratitude is expressed."

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula over the weekend reiterated on Twitter his office would "act firmly against those undermining the authority of the state". BFL spokesperson Lindsay Maasdorp told Mbalula to "stop trying to bully black people" and instead to "go arrest Rupert". "So eintlik, you serving Rupert or liberation?" Maasdorp wrote.

Mbalula tweeted back, "Your rhetoric won't work Chief. Try it somewhere else".