SOUTH African businessman Zunaid Moti has refuted amaBhungane’s claims that he had laid a criminal complaint against three of its journalists, Micah Reddy and Dewald van Rensburg, and its managing partner, Sam Sole.
In a statement this week, amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism, has issued a “Selebi letter” to the police and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to forestall the arrests of two of its journalists and a managing partner over the publishing of the “Moti Files”.
In a statement, amaBhungane said it was made aware businessman Moti or the Moti Group planned to lay criminal charges against its staff members over the articles on Moti’s business dealings in Zimbabwe.
“AmaBhungane’s latest allegations are completely false, and the entire story is disingenuous, to say the least. AmaBhungane is clearly using cheap media tactics in an attempt to gain sympathy among other journalists and the public for its unprofessional and unethical behaviour in using stolen information,” said Moti in a statement.
“I have the greatest respect for the media in general, but amaBhungane’s latest statement about warrants of arrest exemplifies, once again, the false narrative that is being perpetuated against myself and my former company.”
He also said though he had since left the Moti Group, the company did lay criminal charges in Zimbabwe and South Africa against an ex-employee, attorney Clinton van Niekerk, after a digital forensic investigation confirmed that he was responsible for the theft of more than 4,000 confidential company documents.
Moti claimed the investigative media platform has a vendetta against him.
Amabhungane had worked on the recently published Moti Files investigation in which Moti and the Moti Group, which is involved in mining, are accused of cosying up to the regime of Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The Selebi letter relates to a directive issued by then police commissioner Jackie Selebi in which police were urged to allow suspects who are co-operating to present themselves to law enforcement authorities.
In his letter to the police and the NPA, amaBhungane’s attorney Stephen May writes: “[My] clients and I have every reason to believe the recently laid criminal charges, if they exist, are merely an attempt to achieve a de facto ‘gagging order’ by abusing criminal procedure because the jurisdictional facts do not exist to achieve this result legitimately in a civil court.”
May has assured the police and NPA that amaBhungane and its journalists will fully co-operate with any police investigation, and should the police see fit to bring criminal charges against them, they will appear in court to answer the charges.
“However, we remain concerned that arrests are imminent, and our attorneys have briefed counsel to be on standby over the coming days,” said amaBhungane.
“At this stage, we do not intend to publish Mr May’s letter as our priority was to bring this to the attention of the police and NPA.”
The letter alerts the police and NPA that an attempt may be made to arrest amaBhungane’s managing partner and journalists on suspicion of being in possession of leaked documents from the Moti Group, which Moti has repeatedly characterised as “stolen” but which were “evidence” of Moti’s alleged attempts to capture Zimbabwe’s ruling elite.
The Moti Files were published on April 28.