ANC Nelson Mandela Bay chairperson Nceba Faku last night incited more than 100 party members who had gathered at Port Elizabeth’s Vuyisile Mini (Market) Square to burn down The Herald.
Standing on the doorstep of the City Hall, with an ANC flag on his shoulder, Faku said: “Comrades … on behalf of ANC leaders, I want to thank you that you’re here to celebrate this important battle that was between the ANC and the media.
“The primary battle of the ANC has been with the media, especially The Herald, in this region. Down with white political parties, down! Down with those who vote for white political parties!”
ANC supporters started gathering at the busy city square after municipal communications director Roland Williams announced a press conference on the ANC’s victory in the elections. The party retained control of the metro with 51.91%.
Faku has been implicated in the Kabuso forensic report looking at municipal land sales and tenders, commissioned by the provincial Department of Local Government and Traditional Affairs.
The Herald has gone to the courts to force Local Government MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane to release the report.
Yesterday Faku told the crowds: “Down with The Herald, down, down! Burn The Herald! Fire to The Herald! The Herald dictated that [DA leader Helen] Zille and [COPE’s Smuts] Ngonyama would stand here today and run the metro. The Herald was on the forefront of that … Pasop! The Herald, Pasop!
“If you can’t draw the line today … We have to draw the line … We sacrificed our families, we gave our flesh and blood for the cause of the struggle. Go and burn The Herald! We will face a bullet with a bullet!”
As Faku was talking, ANC Motherwell NU8 branch secretary Zola Mayedwa approached the Herald reporter and said: “You had better hide your notebook because these people say they’ll burn The Herald.”
To loud applause, Faku said black people who did not like other black people and their organisations should be driven into the sea or go to Europe. “We need a Malema in this town, we need a Malema!” said Faku, before handing the microphone to ANC MP Cedric Frolick.
Frolick said: “The DA and the media campaigned against the ANC.” He said they would not allow the racism of the DA-led Western Cape to divide Bay citizens.
“We must ensure that we liberate our brothers in the northern areas from [DA] shackles; who made the wrong decision [of voting DA],” Frolick said.
SA National Editors’ Forum chairman Mondli Makhanya said last night they were horrified a senior political leader could utter such inflammatory words.
He said the last time political leaders had called for people to burn literature had been the Nazis in the 1930s.
Makhanya called for the ANC’s national leadership to take the strongest action against Faku for putting the ANC in the same light as Hitler and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
He said the words uttered by Faku were a criminal offence and should be treated as such.
The Herald editor Heather Robertson said: “I am deeply disturbed by Mr Faku’s threat to burn this newspaper. It is shocking that he attacks all of us who work for The Herald on the night of what should be the ANC’s victory celebration.
“Mr Faku clearly does not grasp the freedom of expression clause in the Bill of Rights which was drafted by the ANC.
“Mr Faku’s statements go against the very basis of what the ANC has so valiantly fought for by incitement of imminent violence against The Herald and all who work for it, who include members and supporters of the ANC. We have tried our damndest to give balanced coverage of all the political parties’ campaigns in this city as well as publishing the opinions of writers from all parties.
“We do not see ourselves as the opposition, we are performing our role as an independent press, a role which Mr Faku clearly does not want to understand. I and my team would welcome dialogue with Mr Faku and the leadership of the ANC.”
ANC provincial spokesperson Mlibo Qoboshiyane said: “As the ANC we distance ourselves from such statements. We are going to call the regional chairman to refrain from making such statements. We appeal for him and our members to exercise the highest level of political maturity in that region.
“Our members should exercise restraint. We can’t burn papers. I understand the anger but that is not how we deal with it.
“If we have issues, we should engage with Avusa through the correct channels. We have won that city and now their (regional) priority is service delivery. We appeal to all our members to enjoy their victory in that city within the confines of the law.”
Additional reporting by Nwabisa Makunga