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Clampdown feared as journalist arrested in South Africa

Clampdown feared as journalist arrested in South Africa
Mzilikazi wa Afrika being arrested at Avusa offices by the Hawks.Photo: Sunday Times

The dramatic arrest of Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika at the newspaper's Johannesburg offices has sparked outrage in South Africa.

Wa Afrika was whisked away Tuesday by at least eight members of the police priority crimes unit the Hawks - without an arrest warrant - on charges of fraud and defeating the ends of justice, the newspaper reported on its website. Wa Afrika was driven off in an unmarked police car to Mpumalanga.

He was arrested at the newspaper's head office in Rosebank, the venue at the time for a meeting of editors and journalists who had gathered to discuss the threatened Media Appeals Tribunal and the enactment of the Protection of Information Bill.

The Hawks tried to stop photographers from taking pictures of the arrest. Wa Afrika was handcuffed and taken to his home where the police carried out a search, reportedly removing documents and laptops. His car was later searched at the Rosebank police station.

Though Musa Zondi, spokesman for the Hawks, said Wa Afrika was being arrested in his capacity as a private citizen and not a journalist, it is believed that the arrest was linked to a series of stories published on corruption in Mpumalanga.

At the centre is a letter purportedly written by Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza, announcing his resignation to President Jacob Zuma. The letter, allegedly forged, was faxed to Wa Afrika. The Sunday Times, however, never published a story on the letter. In response to his arrest, the Sunday Times (sister newspaper of The Times) made a direct appeal to Justice Minister Jeff Radebe and police boss General Bheki Cele to intervene.

Ray Hartley, editor of the Sunday Times, said: "He was arrested by a large number of policemen in an operation that was clearly designed to intimidate and I can only conclude that this was the true motive for what took place today." Hartley said he was "deeply concerned" that the newspaper and its lawyers were initially not told where Wa Afrika was being held.

Date posted: August 5, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 210