Johannesburg – South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress on Tuesday apologised after several accredited journalists covering its 54th national elective conference in Johannesburg vociferously complained about being harassed and assaulted by the hordes of police officers and private security deployed at the venue.
The journalists’ complaints - including alleged incidents of a journalist being punched in the stomach, another disabled journalist on prosthetic legs being pushed down and a female journalist saying she was inappropriately touched on her breasts - prompted an intervention from the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) which held a meeting with the ANC's top officials.
“The meeting was very productive and the ANC has apologised for what happened today [Tuesday]. They will now try and get Mkokeli's [Bloomberg journalist and chair of Sanef's media freedom subcommittee Sam Mkokeli] accreditation back, after he handed it over to avoid being further manhandled,” said Sanef chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase.
“The ANC has requested journalists who have been ill-treated to report all incidents as soon as they happen so that they can attend to them. The ANC has also pledged to investigate today's matter and speak to security about incidents of inappropriate behaviour and touching by marshals.”
However, the party also reported “security breaches” by journalists covering the conference.
“As Sanef, we will continue to ask for the ANC to be more transparent and allow a free flow of information. We are however appealing to our members to respect the security arrangements currently in place -- as uncomfortable and undesirable as they may be,” said Gallens.
Several journalists covering the ANC event took to social media sites, particularly Twitter, to voice their displeasure at the heavy-handedness of security guards and South African Police Service officers at the massive gathering.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mkokeli was manhandled and thrown out of the conference in Johannesburg.
Mkokeli’s media accreditation tag was also removed following a scuffle with security personnel after he tried to lead a group of journalists from one venue to another.
This happened after journalists waited outside in the heat to be addressed by newly-elected president of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa, for more than 40 minutes following his walkabout of the conference venue.
African News Agency/ANA