Sunday Times investigative reporter Mzilikazi wa Afrika was en route to hand himself over to police when, in the words of his editor Ray Hartley, "somebody decided they wanted to make something more dramatic out of it" and six police vehicles rushed in to make the arrest. His crime? Either fraud and conspiracy, or just being a thorn in the side of powerful people.
As journalists and editors were meeting downstairs from the newsroom, the Sunday Times learnt that reporter Mzilikazi wa Afrika was being sought by the police. So he headed off to the Rosebank police station a few blocks away, to hand himself over as arranged by the paper’s lawyers. But he never reached his destination. Instead several police, using no fewer than six vehicles, arrested him on the roadside.
“The agreement was that he would hand himself over,” says editor Ray Hartley. “Then they decided to make something else of it.”
As some police tried to stop photographers capturing the scene, Wa Afrika was bundled off to the Rosebank police station – where he had been headed in the first place. Shortly thereafter he was moved, and is presumably now on his way to Nelspruit, although Hartley could not immediately confirm this. “We are still trying to establish what is happening to him.”
From a mixture of reports coming out of Mpumalanga, and statements by the Hawks special unit, a picture is starting to emerge. But keep in mind that it is, as yet, a fairly hazy picture.
Wa Afrika, it seems, will stand accused of conspiring with two Mpumalanga provincial officials to create a fake resignation letter in the name of Premier David Mabuza. Those two officials may also already have been arrested. It is possible that the charge will be simple fraud, or that the three will in addition be charged with attempting to destabilise the government by raising doubts about Mabuza’s position.
Meanwhile, conflicting rumours have suddenly sprung into existence – or perhaps have come to wider attention. On the one hand are allegations of a conspiracy to frame Wa Afrika for bribery. On the other are allegations that he had, in fact, accepted money in return for sabotaging the reputations of Mabuza and police chief General Bheki Cele.
Wa Afrika was one half of the team that on Sunday broke the story of Cele’s apparent involvement in a dodgy rental deal. He has previously jointly reported on a supposed theft of a great deal of money from Mabuza’s farm, and isn’t new to reporting on Cele either.
By Phillip de Wet