Exposing the covert operations of the SARS rogue unit puts journalists as targets of the same covert operations – EFF

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PRETORIA -The EFF on Tuesday criticised the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) for apparent inaction over the alleged ongoing intimidation and spying on Independent Media journalists Mzilikazi Wa Afrika and Piet Rampedi.

The seasoned journalists have alleged to being followed by unknown individuals, linking it to their reportage on the existence and operation of an illegal intelligence unit, popularly referred to as the “rogue unit”, at the South African Revenue Service when Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was at the helm of the tax collection agency in 2007.

We condemn Sanef’s silence on the spying of these journalists. Had it been white journalists complaining about being spied on, Sanef would have released and inundated the country with statements, including going to open a criminal case itself,” said the EFF in a statement released by national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

“That they [Sanef] have not spoken out against the abuse of Wa Afrika and Rampedi shows which interests Sanef really is established for – the protection of white journalists, and utter neglect of blacks in the field.”

As the fallout around the rogue unit deepens, following last week’s damning report by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane confirming the existence of the intelligence unit as claimed by the journalists, the two reporters have claimed that there are individuals following them around, taking pictures of them and their cars, which the EEF described as “the perfect work of espionage agents”.

Ndlozi said it has become evident that working on exposing the covert operations of the SARS rogue unit puts journalists as targets of the same covert operations.

“Our democracy does not need such elements and they must be exposed and face the full might of the law. Media freedom is critical to the democratic health of holding those in power accountable. Once journalists are beaten to submission, the truth will be hidden and abuse of power by those in the state will go unpunished,” said Ndlozi.

“We call on Wa Afrika and Rampedi to open criminal cases with the SAPS so that necessary investigative action can be taken, including provision of protection for their lives.”

On Friday, Mkhwebane instructed different functionaries of government, including President Cyril Ramaphosa and the South African Police Service, to take action against Gordhan for his role in the establishment of the rogue spying unit.

In her hard-hitting report, released at a media briefing in Pretoria, Mkhwebane directed Ramaphosa to “take note of the findings in this report in so far as they related to the erstwhile minister of finance Mr Gordhan and to take appropriate action against him for his violation of the Constitution and the Executive Ethics Code within 30 days of issuing this report”.

“The Speaker of the National Assembly – within 14 days of receipt of this report, [should] refer Mr Gordhan’s violation of the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members’ Interests for Assembly and Permanent Council Members to the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests for consideration in terms of the provisions of paragraph 10 of the Parliament Code of Ethics.”

To national police commissioner, Khehla Sitole, the public protector on Friday instructed that he, within 60 days, “investigate the criminal conduct of Messrs Gordhan, [former deputy commissioner of the SA Revenue Service Ivan] Pillay and officials involved in the SARS intelligence unit, for violation of section 209 of the Constitution and section 3 of the National Strategic Intelligence Act”. She also instructs the police to take action against Gordhan’s successor at SARS, Oupa Magashule for “lying under oath”.

Mkhwebane added that she “looks forward to the full implementation of remedial action in all these reports”.

African News Agency (ANA)