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Released on: January 22, 2024

Limpopo freelancer arrested after angering mayor

When Limpopo freelance journalist Thomo Nkgadima wrote a story for Sunday World about the mayor of Fetakgomo Tubatse, he drew the mayor and council’s wrath. Mayor Eddie Maila laid charges against him for trespassing and intimidation (though the closest he says he came to the mayor’s house was to take a picture from the outside). Although the story had been published in July, police waited until Christmas Eve  to arrest Ngadima, and he spent Christmas in jail. A few days later, he appeared in court and was granted R1 000 bail.

Nkgadima says he was covering a story on illegal electricity connections in an informal settlement where the mayor has built a large house. He was probing why the area was not formally connected to the Eskom electricity supply.

Maile has previously threatened Nkgadima.

The council and Maile have also sent a letter to Ngadima demanding that he provide evidence that the mayor’s house was illegally connected (something Nkgadima had not said) and demanding that he apologise.

The South African National Editors Forum has expressed “disappointment that such charges were brought forward against a journalist who was doing his job and never trespassed on Maila’s property, nor intimidated anyone”.

This is the latest in a growing trend of intimidation and harassment of journalists on the job, a worrying development in South Africa (see our State of Free Expression in SA report). CFE calls on the mayor and council to withdraw the case and letter, and cease their harassment of this journalist.

CFE, working with Media Defence in London, are assisting Nkgadima with legal defence for when he appears in court again on February 7.

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