The audacious and defiant utterances after the court ordered Black First Land First (BLF) members to leave journalists in peace raised doubts about whether they will respect the court interdict, however, the movement’s leader later seemed to back down.
Johannesburg High Court Judge Corrie van der Westhuizen on Friday interdicted BLF and its leader, Andile Mngxitama, from intimidating, harassing, assaulting, threatening and going to the homes of journalists.
This was victory for the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), which approached the court in a bid to protect “11 senior journalists, editors and commentators who have been targeted for their reporting on state capture”.
A protest staged at the private house of Tiso Blackstar editor at large Peter Bruce last week and the intimidation of others prompted legal action against the BLF, which threatened similar action at several journalists’ homes.
Mngxitama said: “From now on, no one shall dare launch any protest at the private homes of their adversaries. Indeed, protesting at the Gupta family home is as undesirable as protesting at the home of Peter Bruce. The BLF welcomes this and shall encourage all to abide by this civilised behaviour in equal measure.”
However, BLF members and Mngxitama displayed no sense of remorse on other aspects of the interdict. “If journalists are going to write any racist material, we’re going to protest against them. We’re fighting criminality; racism is the number one crime ... we’re going to deal with racism in the media,” Mngxitama insisted.
Asked if the BLF would challenge the court order, Mngxitama said: “Our lawyers are studying the judgment and we’ll take advice ... if we come back to court, we want a black judge. The trauma of losing against a black judge is better than losing against a white judge.”
Sanef chairperson Mahlatse Gallens welcomed the ruling, saying it was their duty to “defend the rights of journalists to do their work”.
“They’re trying to silence the media ... We’ll not be deterred. It is unfortunate that race is being used in this capacity in an effort to deflect from real issues,” she said.
“We all have to take a stance as South Africans. If we allow threats to continue, what will happen next? We can’t have a situation where journalists are not allowed to do their work and are threatened.”