The EFF has questioned the role of senior journalist Ranjeni Munusamy, who has joined the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) in filing hate speech charges against it and leader Julius Malema at the Equality Court in Pretoria.
Sanef and journalists Barry Bateman from Eyewitness News, Pauli van Wyk of the Daily Maverick, Adriaan Basson from News24, veteran journalist Max du Preez as well as Munusamy, from the Sunday Times, have asked the court to interdict Malema and his supporters from making hate speech against them on public platforms and all social media platforms.
In her supporting affidavit Munusamy said that as a result of comments made on social media, particularly Twitter, journalists who were allegedly singled out for abuse by Malema became victims of harassment and threats.
According to Sanef counsel advocate Daniel Berger, SC, the threats against Munusamy began on July 5 last year, when Malema allegedly urged EFF members not to treat Munusamy “like a journalist as she is behaving like a politician”.
The court heard that Malema allegedly told his supporters “we must treat Ranjeni (Munusamy) the same way we treat (Malusi) Gigaba and (Fikile) Mbalula”.
According to Berger, these statements escalated in November last year when Malema allegedly singled out several senior journalists.
Malema allegedly incited violence against journalists when he told his supporters in Parktown – outside the state capture hearings – that “if the enemy rears its head, do not attack the head, cut it”, the court heard.
Berger said that those statements constituted hate speech and incited violence, but advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, representing the EFF, disagreed.
He said Sanef “airlifted certain passages” in Malema’s speech and used them to bring this application in the Equality Court. He said they had failed to consider the totality of the speech.
Ngcukaitobi pointed out that Sanef and the senior journalists had ignored the conclusion of a speech on November 20 last year, when he urged EFF members not to kill the journalists.
He said: “Mr Malema told his supporters ‘do not kill them. Some of them are my friends on Twitter and I have their numbers on my phone. I communicate with them, but I just want them to be honest. Do not kill them, some of them are women.’”
He also revealed that Munusamy then texted Malema after his speech and thanked him for urging his members not to attack journalists.
“Malema then replied to the text and said: ‘I will phone you later’. He indeed called and they had a discussion. I think the laying of the hate speech charges was an after-the-fact rationalisation,” Ngcukaitobi said.
He was adamant that Malema’s speech was “metaphorical political speech”. Ngcukaitobi also pointed out a clause in Sanef’s constitution that obliged it to monitor ongoing litigation, and it had then decided to support one of them. He said the clause did not give Sanef powers to litigate.