IN THE EQUALITY COURT OF SOUTH AFRICA (GAUTENG DIVISION, PRETORIA)
In the matter between
SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL EDITORS FORUM - First Complainant
NAVARANJENI MUNUSAMY - Second Complainant
PAULI VANWYK - Third Complainant
ADRIAAN JURGENS BASSON - Fourth Complainant
MAX DU PREEZ - Fifth Complainant
BARRY BATEMAN - Sixth Complainant
THE ECONOMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS - First Respondent
JULIUS MALEMA - Second Respondent
SUPPORTING AFFIDAVIT: NAVARANJENI MUNUSAMY
I, the undersigned,
state the following under oath:
1. I am an adult female journalist. I am an Associate Editor: Analysis for the Tiso Blackstar Group (Pty) Ltd, of Hill on Empire, 16 Empire Road, Parktown, Johannesburg. Before that I was employed as an Associate Editor for the online publication Daily Maverick for a period of approximately five years. I have national diploma in journalism from the Durban University of Technology.
2. The facts contained herein are within my personal knowledge, and are, to the best of my belief, both true and correct.
3. I have read the founding affidavit of Mahlatse Mahlase, on behalf of the first complainant in this matter. I align myself with the contents of the complaint and I support the relief sought. I confirm that the contents of the founding affidavit are true and correct in so far as they relate to me.
4. My employer, Tiso Blackstar, owns several publications in which my work appears, including newspapers such as the Sunday Times, Business Day and Sowetan.
5. I have been a journalist and political commentator for over 20 years. My work requires me to interact with the senior leadership of all political parties, including the leadership of the Economic Freedom Fighters ("EFF"), the first respondent. Until recently, my interaction with the EFF leadership has been, for the most part, professional and cordial.
6. On 5 June 2018 Mr Ismail Momoniat attended a meeting of Parliament's finance portfolio committee on behalf of National Treasury. Mr Momoniat is a Deputy Director General in National Treasury. Mr Floyd Shivambu (the deputy leader of the EFF) objected to his presence and to the fact that the Director General was not present. He accused Mr Momoniat of undermining African leadership in National Treasury, including the political leadership.
7. Mr Shivambu claimed:
"He (Momoniat) thinks he is superior to them. He takes all the decisions and he is always here in Parliament as if he is National Treasury alone. He is supposed to focus on what he is assigned to."
8. Far from distancing themselves from Mr Shivambu's anti-Indian rhetoric the EFF's leadership endorsed his comments.
9. I telephoned Mr Malema to get his comment on what Mr Shivambu had said.
Instead of distancing himself from Mr Shivambu's comments, as I would have expected him to do, he endorsed them. Mr Malema told me that Mr Momoniat was "extremely racist", "just like Minister Gordhan". He also said that Minister Nene was corrupt and that the EFF was going to expose him. I thanked Mr Malema and said that I would look into the allegations, which I did.
10. I contacted various National Treasury sources to ascertain whether they were aware of any complaints against Mr Momoniat. I was assured that there had been none. They suggested instead that the EFF's attack on Mr Momoniat and on National Treasury was motivated by investigations initiated by National Treasury and SARS into the VBS Bank, the Public Investment Corporation and the tax affairs of various EFF leaders.
11. On 10 June 2018 the Sunday Times published my column in which I explored what appeared to me to be the real reason behind Mr Shivambu's attack on Mr Momoniat (annexure "RM1"). An extract from my article reads:
"In the midst of the populist bluster that exploded as a result of the EFF unleashing its Twitter army on anyone questioning the attack on Momoniat, it has been difficult to find corroboration. Rather than exposing incidents of racism or corruption, former and current staff at the Treasury have been revealing the reasons they believe that their leaders, Momoniat in particular, are under pressure."
"These include the EFF's alleged payments from VBS Mutual Bank, which through Momoniat's intervention is now under curatorship; Shivambu's alleged improper intetference in deals financed by the Public Investment Corporation; and tax matters that are behind the EFF's sudden efforts to protect Tom Moyane and his crew from removal at SARS."
The attacks on me
12. The EFF leadership did not take my criticism of them lightly. Nor did their supporters. As a consequence of what I wrote, I have been insulted and vilified by the EFF leadership and supporters on social media platforms (annexures "RM2" - "RM10").
13. In some tweets I was accused of being part of an "Indian mob" and a cabal led by Minister Gordhan. In other tweets I have been referred to as a "curry chakalaka woman" and a "devil". I have also been accused of being part of a "cabal of the kulikies" (Indians).
14. I find these derogatory references to my Indian heritage off nsive and deeply disturbing.
15. On 5 July 2018, the EFF held a media briefing, which I did not attend. The press briefing was however recorded and broadcast live. Mr Malema made the following comments about me and other journalists:
"You know you've got a group of journalists like Ranjeni [Munusamy], like Feria/ [Haffajjee] like Max [du Preez], like Peter Bruce, who have organized themselves as a mob - and Karima Brown - and attacked everyone who doesn't agree with President Ramaphosa."
"Ranjeni once went to our national chairperson [Dali Mpofu], went to Dali Mpofu and said 'Guys, propose Pravin [Gordhan] as acting president when we remove Zuma'. Ranjeni. Ranjeni went to Dali. They're embedded. She went to Dali anc/ said [. ...] Jet's make Pravin president because that time when we were saying we supporl Pravin she was confusing us to thinking we are in her faction or something."
"Floyd [Shivambu] goes and challenges Momo [Ismail Momoniat], right. He touches the untouchable. After he challenges Momo the mob comes and attacks Floyd without even hearing what Floyd said. When the facts are put forward they are in denial."
"We are not going to be subjected here by gangsterism of Pravin Gordhan. This is Pravin's style. He has done it to me. I'm not scared of Pravin. I'm not scared of the Indian cabal."
"Journalists, once they take sides, are politicians. They must be treated as politicians. The same way we treat Malusi Gigaba, the same way we treat [Fikile] Mbalula, the same way we treat Zizi Kodwa, is the same way we will treat journalists who descend into the arena."
"Ranjeni [Munusamy] is a politician. All EFF people must know, that in dealing with Ranjeni you are dealing with a politician. She is a politician that has proposed to other politicians Pravin Gordhan must be made the president. Only a politician can make that suggestion and she will be treated as such, she is a politician."
16. I was shocked by Mr Malema's claim that I was part of any cabal, let alone any racially based one, or that I was using my access as a journalist to influence the national political landscape. Hoping to clarify matters, I sent Mr Malema the following message (annexure "RM11"):
"Dear CIC, I understand politics and understand that the stakes are high. I am not sure where you are going with this but hope that someday you will explain it to me as you have explained many things before. I am not your enemy but if you need to see me as that, that's a sad development. Regards, Ranjeni"
17. It was important to me to clarify what had happened and to dispel any belief that I was invested in any political party to the extent that I would compromise my journalistic independence whatsoever. My credibility as a journalist depends on my integrity. My ability to canvass the views of various political leaders is dependent on my independence.
18. In response Mr Malema sent me a text message promising to call me, which he did. I took advantage of the opportunity to ask him what he meant when he said that I had lobbied the EFF leadership in a bid to get Minister Gordhan elected President. He told me that Mr Dali Mpofu had told him that.
19. I explained that I had bumped into Mr Mpofu at Ahmed Kathrada's memorial service at the Johannesburg City Hall on 2 April 2017. I told him that we had discussed informal talks that were taking place between SACP, EFF and ANC regarding a possible vote of no confidence against former President Zuma. My understanding was that the only point of disagreement between them was about who should succeed then President Zuma. Mr Mpofu and I discussed potential candidates for the Presidency. In jest I had suggested to Mr Mpofu that Minister Gordhan was an option because, at the time, he did not have a job. Mr Mpofu and I both laughed (annexure "RM12").
20. Mr Malema appeared to be satisfied with my explanation. I regarded the topic as closed and did not think about it further.
21. Since then Mr Malema and I have spoken several times, including on 13 August 2018. On that occasion Mr Malema telephoned me to talk about a video of him that was circulating on social media, in which he appeared to be firing a gun with live ammunition at an EFF rally. Mr Malema wanted to discuss the fallout from the surfacing of the video.
22. On 20 November 2018 Mr Malema addressed a gathering of EFF supporters who were protesting outside the Tiso Blackstar building. EFF supporters had gathered on the day in protest at Mr Gordhan's testimony to the State Capture Commission. The venue for the Commission hearing is in the same building as Blackstar. Mr Malema repeated his claim that some journalists, including me, were part of a cabal to discredit the EFF and lobby support for Minister Gordhan. I was particularly shocked when Mr Malema told his supporters that I had attempted to influence the EFF and had lobbied them to support Minister Gordhan for the position of President.
23. Mr Malema called us "crooks", "hypocrites", members of "Ramaphosa's defence force", and accused us of being part of "Stratcom", a term used to describe journalists who had collaborated with the apartheid government and security police to subvert the truth and manipulate the media. He repeated his earlier allegation that I had lobbied the EFF leadership to support Minister Gordhan for President.
24. Mr Malema referred to me by name and made a point of telling his supporters that I was in the building. This caused the crowd to shout out my name and to call for me and to come out from the building. From the tone of the meeting I fear that had I gone down to meet with the protestors I would not have been safe.
25. Mr Malema urged his supporters to "attack" and to "occupy every house, every space in society". I felt particularly afraid, intimidated and under threat by what I understood to be Mr Malema's call to action. The fact that he had singled me out made me even more afraid, especially when Mr Malema said:
"Let us not leave the enemy to chance. Where we meet the enemy, we must crush the enemy. On Facebook, Twitter, social media, be there, guard the revolution. When the enemy raises its ugly head, don't hit the head, cut the head. No time to enterlain enemies of revolution. We must protect the revolution at all costs."
26. Mr Malema concluded his speech by telling his supporters not to use violence against us because some of us were women. I sent Mr Malema a text thanking him for his message.
27. I found the tone of Mr Malema's address very unsettling. As did other journalists who were on duty in the building that afternoon. The atmosphere in the newsroom was charged. People were very disturbed. I was rushing to finalise a story but found it difficult to do so.
28. As I am a senior journalist I felt compelled to try to reassure my colleagues that I was unaffected by Mr Malema's attack on me and that I was able to continue working. I was rushing to meet a deadline and even though I tried to pretend that I was fine I had difficulty working.
29. The incident that afternoon has impacted negatively on me and my colleagues.
Many colleagues have voiced their concern about my safety. Some appear to be worried that their association with me implicates them and threatens their safety.
30. Mr Malema has persisted in his personal attacks on me. On Tuesday, 27 November 2018, during the course of an address to EFF supporters outside the Brooklyn police station, Mr Malema repeated his attack on me.
31. I have resorted to blocking Mr Malema from my Twitter account to shield myself from his abuse. I object to his constant reference to me as an enemy. I find his repeated comments hurtful and intimidating, making me fear for my safety.
32. One of the consequences of Mr Malema's election to single me out is that every time he publicly attacks me my Twitter account is flooded with abusive and threatening tweets from his supporters (annexures "RM13" - "RM24").
33. I have·been called a "witch" (annexure "RM13"), a "cunt" (annexure "RM14"), a "snake" (annexure "RM15"), an "achaareating bitch" (annexure "RM16"), and a "street girl" (annexure "RM17"), was told to "go hang" (annexure "RM18") and have been accused of being a racist (annexures "RM19" and "RM20"). I have also been told that I should be "fucked in the arse to be taught a lesson".
34. A tweet that particularly distressed me was posted by an EFF supporter in response to one of my columns in which I had been critical of Mr Malema and the EFF. It reads:
"can we visit journalists in their homes for evidence and motives. Same journalists should give us updates on Steinhoff heist' (annexure "RM24").
35. Calls by EFF supporters for journalists' home addresses to be made public, coupled with consistent threats of physical violence against those of us whom the EFF leadership has singled out for abuse, has created a climate of fear amongst journalists.
36. The threat of defamation actions and claims for damages keeps most journalists on their toes and encourages us to be rigorous. If the EFF leadership and Mr Malema are aggrieved at what I have written about them, the law affords them ample protection to seek redress. They have chosen not to do so. Instead they have created an environment where journalists like me are singled out for abuse every time we write something critical.
37. Mr Malema must be aware that every time he attacks me his followers follow suit. I do not believe that he is not aware of the insults and threats that have been made against me. I believe that he has an obligation to call on his supporters to act responsibly and to stop threatening me and other journalists. Not only has Mr Malema and the EFF chosen not to distance themselves from threats made by their supporters, their conduct has contributed to the climate of fear and hostility in which journalists currently work.
The effects of the attacks on me
38. Recently I have begun to feel the impact that working in a hostile environment has had on both my emotional well-being and on my ability to continue to do my work professionally.
39. On 21 November 2018, while I was covering a session of the State Capture Commission, I was overcome with emotion. I felt completely overwhelmed for no reason and began to cry. Colleagues who were attending the session had to comfort and reassure me. This has never happened to me before.
40. On the same day I confided to one of my colleagues, Mr Bongani Siqoko, the editor of the Sunday Times, that I was not coping. He took me to his office where I broke down completely. Those who know me will know that I do not easily become emotional.
41. More recently, former state security operatives have warned me to take security precautions and to be careful because I may be in physical danger. I do not want to be forced to employ private security personnel to protect me. I believe that this will impede my effectiveness as a journalist.
42. However, the events of 23 November 2018 have forced me to reconsider that decision. At approximately 18:00 on that day, I visited a shopping centre near my house. I go there often on my way home from work. I do not wish to disclose the precise location because I do not want a repetition of what happened on the day.
43. While shopping, I noticed three men looking at me. As I walked past them, they repeatedly called my surname in a mocking tone. I tried to ignore them, walking past them quickly. The men were waiting for me at the entrance of the shop when I left. As I passed them they hissed at me and shouted my name. I was so distressed by the incident that I tweeted what had happened (annexures "RM25" - "RM28"). As a consequence, I am wary of going out to public places.
44. Consistent attacks on my integrity and professionalism are wearing me down. I am finding it increasingly difficult to do my work. I am a political commentator. I write articles that are critical of all political parties in South Africa. I do not want the threats, that I have been subjected to, to temper my professionalism or my independence. But I know that what I write may jeopardise my physical safety. I am beginning to question whether I should continue writing about corruption if it means that my safety is threatened.
45. The events of the past few months have also affected the people who are close to me. It is not easy seeing my friends and family distressed and worried that something will happen to me.
46. I ask this Court to grant the relief set out in the Form to which this affidavit is annexed.
Signed: Ranjeni Munusamy
14 December 2018
Issued by SANEF, 19 December 2018. See here for the original PDF.