NEWS & ANALYSIS

Court must not waste its time on this matter - EFF lawyer on Sanef case

Adv Tembeka Ngcukaitobi says Fighters are not only opposed to physical violence, but online abuse as well

Court must not waste its time on this matter - EFF lawyer on Sanef case

The EFF has told the Equality Court, sitting in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, its position on any form of violence is quite clear.

"It is not only opposed to only physical violence, it is also opposed to online abuse," advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, on behalf of the EFF and its leader Julius Malema, argued on Tuesday.

"In the very first speech that brought us to court [in November 2018], Mr Malema made his position clear on violence. That clarity on violence has been repeated many times by leaders of the EFF," Ngcukaitobi said.

This comes after the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) and five senior journalists approached the Equality Court to interdict the EFF from intimidating, harassing and assaulting journalists.

The five journalists are News24 editor Adriaan Basson, Daily Maverick journalist Pauli van Wyk, Tiso Blackstar associate editor Ranjeni Munusamy, Eyewitness News senior journalist Barry Bateman and Vrye Weekblad co-editor Max du Preez.

"It is clear the EFF has publicly communicated its position on violence and its position on online abuse. Not only has it done that, it also told its supporters how to respond to what it perceives as a provocation - superior logic, clarify facts and people will fall on their swords," Ngcukaitobi said.

He added both Malema and EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu have told their supporters on Twitter that the way they engaged with journalists "is with superior logic".

"Mr Shivambu has said the way we engage with confused journalists is to clarify the facts to them and they will fall on their swords."

Ngcukaitobi said the EFF was on Sanef's side when it came to the harassment of journalists, adding the party was appalled by the use of "misogynistic" language.

He argued the case should be dismissed with no order to costs because there would be no winners, saying the court should not "waste its time" on the case.

"There is no single EFF tweet that is a call to violence."

Ngcukaitobi said there was "absolutely nothing hateful" about tweets that were posted by the EFF.

He added when Malema called Basson a racist it did not amount to hate speech.

"The fact that Mr Basson is called a racist is neither here nor there. In any event, his complaint is that he was discriminated against on the grounds of race. His argument is that he was discriminated against on the grounds of occupation," Ngcukaitobi argued.

In November 2018, Malema identified specific journalists whom he accused of protecting Gordhan. He also accused the media of ignoring allegations made by the EFF that Gordhan's daughter was in business with the state, News24 previously reported.

At the time, Malema said: "These crooks, who are calling themselves journalists, are sitting with those questions they have never asked Pravin. The deputy president of the EFF came here yesterday and spoke. Instead of repeating those quotes, they asked Pravin: 'Why is the EFF attacking you?' I want the EFF leadership from today and the membership to know we are not answering any question[s] from Tiso Blackstar, the Daily Maverick, Scorpio, and e.tv which ask us about our wives, about our relatives, about anyone we know, until they ask Pravin these questions in a live interview."

News24

Update:

Sanef confident about its case against EFF

The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) says it is confident about the manner in which it presented its case before the Equality Court  against the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

Sanef and five senior journalists approached the Equality Court, sitting in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, to interdict the EFF from intimidating, harassing and assaulting journalists.

The five journalists are News24 editor Adriaan Basson, Daily Maverick journalist Pauli van Wyk, Tiso Blackstar associate editor Ranjeni Munusamy, Eyewitness News senior journalist Barry Bateman and Vrye Weekblad co-editor Max du Preez.

The court spent two days hearings arguments from both parties, with the EFF arguing that the court should not "waste its time".

The EFF had also argued that the case should be dismissed with no order to costs because there would be no winners.

However, following an adjournment on Tuesday afternoon, Sanef chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase told reporters that the editor's forum managed to show a direct link between EFF leader Julius Malema and the statement he made outside the Zondo commission last year - where he called for "heads to be cut off" which was followed by attacks on Twitter.

In November 2018, Malema identified specific journalists whom he accused of protecting Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, who was testifying at the state capture inquiry at the time.

Malema also accused the media of ignoring allegations made by the EFF that Gordhan's daughter was in business with the State, News24 previously reported.

At the time, Malema said: "These crooks, who are calling themselves journalists, are sitting with those questions they have never asked Pravin. The deputy president of the EFF came here yesterday and spoke.

"Instead of repeating those quotes, they asked Pravin: 'Why is the EFF attacking you?' I want the EFF leadership from today and the membership to know we are not answering any question[s] from Tiso Blackstar, the Daily Maverick, Scorpio, and e.tv which ask us about our wives, about our relatives, about anyone we know, until they ask Pravin these questions in a live interview."

Malema likened the media to the apartheid government's "Stratcom" disinformation campaign, and called Tiso Blackstar "hypocrites".

But Mahlase said on Tuesday that it was important for Malema, who leads the third biggest political party in South Africa, to be "crystal clear around condemning violence and threats of violence".

She said if the EFF was against the articles written by journalists, they should rather debate the ideas and not attack individuals.

She said it can't be right for Malema to call anybody "Satan".

"We resorted to court out of desperation. We have to protect our journalists and we have to ensure they work in an environment that is free of any intimidation and harassment," she said.

But Malema accused Sanef of being used by Gordhan.

"The matter is not between us and Sanef, the matter is between us and Pravin, they are using Sanef to come and defend Pravin."

"We were speaking outside the commission against what Pravin was going to say in the commission and Sanef took an offence and approached the Equality Court, for what reason? We don't know.

"How do you say cut their head off is an intimidation or hate speech when it is a political speech?" Malema asked.

He said the EFF was confident it would win the case.

Malema also told reporters that the EFF did not agree with any form of bullying, but that their members "will never be scared to engage robustly in a heated manner especially with journalists who descend in the terrain of politics and want to be players in the political field".

"People should always use superior logic and win their arguments through facts not through name calling and intimidation particularly against female journalists," he said.

Judgment has been reserved.

News24