The lead investigator for the Zondo Commission Frank Dutton. File picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

Global press freedom organisation, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), has taken issue with the action of an investigator from the Zondo commission trying to arm-twist a journalist to give it notes and voice recording of a story that could help in their own investigation.

CPJ’s Africa programme coordinator, Angela Quintal, slammed the actions of the commission’s investigator Frank Dutton, who was trying to force Independent Media’s political journalist Bongani Hans, to reveal confidential information about an interview he had in August with retired ANC politician, Meshack Radebe.  

She added that reporters are ethically bound to protect sources to the extent that they would be prepared to go to jail rather than expose them. 

Responding to the bizarre conduct, Quintal said dating back to President Nelson Mandela's administration, there is an understanding reached between Sanef (SA National Editors Forum) and the then Justice Minister Dullah Omar, that despite S205 of the Criminal Procedure Act still being in force, it will not be used against journalists. 

“This thankfully has not been par for the course in a democratic South Africa and one would hope that the Zondo Commission will understand what it would mean for such an important body to be linked to  the tactics used under apartheid. 

"This understanding, which is largely respected by our democratically-elected government, the NPA and the police to this day, is what makes South Africa among the nations in the world that is seen to respect the right to media freedom, free expression and the public's right to information enshrined in our Constitution and not merely pay lip-service to these. 

"CPJ will make contact with the Zondo commission to understand why investigators of the commission are allegedly using strong-arm tactics that also has the potential to place Bongani Hans and Independent Newspapers in an invidious position,” she said. 

Adding its voice, the executive director of the  Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) Samkelo Mokhine also condemned the conduct. 

“We obviously condemn the actions of the investigators. I'm consulting regarding the legal options so that we can possibly offer a bit more than mere condemnation,” Mokhine said. 

The spokesperson of the Zondo commission, Reverend Mbuyiselo Stemela, had not responded by the time this report was compiled, despite repeated promises to do so. Dutton said all questions should be referred to the commission.

Political Bureau