CAPE TOWN - Newzroom Afrika senior broadcast journalist Ziniko Mhlaba and his cameraman colleague Muraga Mphaphuli were arrested on Monday at an Orlando East, Soweto, polling station after they allegedly interfered with the work of the electoral presiding officer.
Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) chairperson Glen Mashinini said they regretted the arrest of the journalist at a voting station.
“After intervention of the commission, the journalist has been released and an investigation into the circumstances of his arrest will be instituted,” said Mashinini.
“It is rather unfortunate that this situation resulted in a confrontation between police and the journalist,” said national police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo.
He added that the matter had been escalated to the Provincial Commissioner of Gauteng, who ordered the release of the journalist and an investigation into the matter.
Newzroom Afrika condemned the arrest and said Mhlaba was accredited by the IEC to cover the elections and had every right to be where he was.
“Neither he nor the cameraman contravened any of the provisions of the Electoral Act at any point, nor did they interfere with the work of the IEC officials on duty,” a Newzroom Afrika statement read.
Newzroom Afrika chief executive Thabile Ngwato said the safety and security of their reporters was a key priority.
“As a news broadcaster, it'’s our responsibility to provide credible information to our viewers and the police, and IEC officials cannot be seen to be against this. As a business, we are taking this matter with the seriousness that it deserves,” she said.
Amnesty International SA executive director Shenilla Mohamed said they were concerned that a journalist was arrested while trying to do his job.
“It is also unacceptable that citizens who were filming the incident on their cellphones were reportedly manhandled by the police. This is in violation of their rights. The IEC must investigate the matter.”
In video footage, a policewoman is seen blocking the view of the camera.
She then handles the equipment and Mhlaba is heard telling her not to touch the property.
“The police officer is grabbing the camera away from our hands, we are at Zakheni Primary School, one of the voting stations. Right now viewers are unable to see anything that is happening,” Mhlaba said.
The two journalists were then allegedly kicked out of the polling station.
He asked the officials why he was being taken away from the station. A male officer explained that he was requested by the presiding officer to take Mhlaba and his colleague out.
Mhlaba then questioned the legality of his removal from the school.
“If you want to challenge us, you can challenge us at a later stage,’’ the policewoman said.
He was then arrested.
Meanwhile, a presiding officer in the eThekwini metro in Durban was arrested yesterday morning after allegedly stuffing marked ballots into a ballot box, the IEC said.
The matter was handed over to the SAPS.
“This incident, which did not affect voting, is a testament to the in-built safeguards in the voting process, that also include an active role for party and independent candidate agents,” the IEC said.