29 July 2017

South Africa: Minister Fikile Mbalula On Latest Incidents Involving Black First Land First and Others

Photo: Black First Land First
Black First Land First logo.
press release

On 7 July 2017, the Johannesburg High Court granted a court order against Black First Land First ("BLF") and its President, Andile Mngxitama. The terms of the court order are that BLF and Mr Mngxitama were interdicted from, amongst other things, intimidating, harassing, assaulting and threatening the applicants in that matter and making any threatening or intimidating gestures on social media, including on the BLF's website and its members' individual twitter pages, that references any violence, harm or threats.

The court also ordered the BLF and Mr Mngxitama to issue a public statement to its members stating that it does not condone any of the above acts directed at any journalist.

We have noticed that despite the court order being granted some two weeks ago, and a statement issued by the BLF on 11 July 2017 in which the BLF and Mr Mngxitama state that they condemn any act of intimidation, harassment, assault or threats against any journalist, the BLF is alleged to have engaged in yet another act of harassment and assault of a journalist.

We are a country of laws; this government takes the rule of law very serious. The new wave of intimidation, intolerance, harassment and riotous behavior we have seen is dangerous to our democracy. We have seen and applauded scenes in parliament where even members of parliament have behaved in this fashion.

I have previously made it clear that BLF is bound like all of us to conduct its business lawfully without breaking any laws including the Bill of Rights, which instructs freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of the press.

Without a free press, a free media, we are left without freedom to information - as such the end of freedom as we dreamt it.

I therefore once again condemn the conduct of the BLF as criminal acts not in congress with a free people and a democracy. Police are to regard intimidation and harassment as a crime. Disobedience of court rulings are also unlawful, this includes the spirit of such court rulings.

Our democracy is meaningless without free assembly, free movement, free association and a free media.

I am deeply disheartened to see a group of educated Africans denying others the rights they themselves fought to have in our laws. I call upon all of us, BLF to strictly observe freedom of thought and free opinion. As we lay the late Ronnie Mamoepa to rest tomorrow, let us observe his teachings on the importance of freedom of speech.

BLF must win hearts and minds via cogent debate not via disruptions and intimidations - our hard won freedom demands it.

No person or group should be harassed or intimidated in any way due to the ideas they hold. We should all work for a South Africa that has diverse viewpoints and tolerance of divergent views. We must celebrate it when we disagree and instead debate and argue our opinions freely.

Police are sensitized that intimidation and harassment are crimes and we need not wait for bloodied face evidence before we threat victims with due care when they visit our police stations to seek our assistance.

Issued by: South African Police Service

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