Assault on reporter at ANC meeting
“I will shoot you. I will kill you.”
Those were the words screamed at The Herald reporter Hendrick Mphande as two men hit him and a third threatened him with a knife outside the Nangoza Jebe Hall in New Brighton on Sunday.
Mphande was outside the hall alongside ANC members as a meeting held between the ANC’s provincial executive committee (PEC), the regional task team (RTT) and ANC branch leaders took place.
Mphande was not the only one intimidated, with provincial ANC boss Oscar Mabuyane saying branch leaders had also been threatened with “being followed to their house” when they tried to enter the venue.
He called the actions of those outside the venue – who, he pointed out, were not branch leaders but people dressed in ANC regalia – anarchy.
The task team was set up to resuscitate the ANC in Nelson Mandela Bay following what the provincial executive committee said had been disastrous management of the region.
That decision, taken in October, has, however, been contentious, with the regional structure not accepting the disbanding.
Before Mphande was assaulted, he had been informed that those outside the Nangoza Jebe Hall were members of the pro-Andile Lungisa faction who “do not recognise” the provincial executive.
Mabuyane said he could not confirm that the group was pro-Lungisa.
Another decision by the provincial executive, when the regional executive committee was dissolved, was that Lungisa step down from his mayoral committee member position.
When a firecracker was let off outside the hall, Mphande started taking photographs of the commotion it caused.
It was then that people demanded to know why Mphande was taking pictures, ordering him to hand over his cellphone.
“About five men approached me and asked what I was doing and why I was taking pictures,” Mphande said.
“[A man I know] said to them: ‘Look, this guy is a reporter from The Herald, don’t worry about him.’
“One of the men demanded my name.”
A fourth man, who Mphande said was small business owner Arthur Marwana, took issue on hearing who Mphande was due to a prior article in The Herald.
The article was about the hit-style murder of a businessman in Kwazakhele in early October.
Marwana was named as the head of the People Shall Share Business Forum which was at odds with the businessman shortly before he was killed.
Marwana said the article had suggested he was the killer, which caused him to lose business and his family to distance themselves from him.
Mphande denies that Marwana was portrayed as the killer in his article.
Called for comment later on Sunday about the attack, Marwana did not answer his phone.
During the attack, Marwana allegedly grabbed Mphande’s phone while two unknown men hit Mphande over the head with their bare hands.
“[Marwana] said to me twice that he would shoot me – I got shaken up, about five people gathered around me and cornered me while hurling insults,” Mphande said.
“While we were standing there, another man wearing an ANC T-shirt approached me holding a knife and swore at me.”
Following intervention from another member of the group, the men let Mphande go.
Mabuyane apologised to Mphande, saying the ANC had fought for liberation and that included the media.
“It is very important for political organisations to be held accountable. We really condemn that incident,” he said.
“To us it speaks volumes on the challenges as far as our structures are concerned on the ground.”
Mabuyane said branch leaders had also been harassed.
“It made it very difficult for branches to access the venue.”
He said a skirmish had broken out outside the hall and the police had been called.
Of the decision taken to disband the regional structure, he said: “We are not going to turn back.
“This is an opportunity for unity and renewal.
“We will be coming back with the NEC [national executive committee].”
Mabuyane said the ANC would not accept having a “no go area because of thugs”.
“It has got nothing to do with comradeship and revolution. It has nothing to do with individuals but with the people of Nelson Mandela,” he said.
He said structures had been weakened to the point that they were now easily intimidated by thugs, “thugs masquerading as SMMEs”.
Small businesses in Nelson Mandela Bay should benefit from work – but within the framework of the law, he said.
“They can’t be people who just stand up and point guns at people and threaten everyone around, demanding that government must break the law.
“Where it is due, it must be given,” Mabuyane said.
Last week, SMME owners shut down two of the city’s main administration buildings – Lillian Diedericks and Mfanasekhaya Gqobose – in Port Elizabeth’s Govan Mbeki Avenue, preventing officials from reporting for work, as they demanded “work packages”.
Mabuyane said the municipality could also not work as though there were no SMMEs that should be considered, but the work had to be allocated according to the law.
Mphande has laid a complaint of assault and intimidation at the Kabega Park police station.
The Herald editor Nwabisa Makunga strongly condemned the attack on Mphande, saying: “This attack is not only barbaric but an act of thuggery.
“It must be understood in the context of a political environment that is unjustifiably and increasingly hostile towards journalists.
“It cannot and must not be accepted or normalised in a constitutional democracy.
“As journalists in this institution, we will continue to defend our right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and we will most certainly not be deterred in our mandate to tell stories without fear or favour.”
Makunga called on the police to arrest those responsible.
“We also call on law-abiding citizens to stand against this anarchy,” she said.