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Released on: July 11, 2024

Mpumalanga Premier sues journalist for medicine ‘theft’ exposé

Editor Bheki Mashile is being sued by Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni for R10-million. Mtsweni believes that stories Mashile wrote in April and May 2024 were defamatory and accused him of failing  to allow her to respond to allegations against her and former Mpumalanga Director-General, Makhukhu Mampuru.

In April 2024, Mashile, editor of the Umjindi-Elukwatini Guardian in Barberton,  wrote a news article alleging that Mtsweni and Mampuru were responsible for the theft of money meant for medication at clinics and hospitals in the province. A number of nurses and whistleblowers interviewed by Mashile alleged that the medication was never received and that they faced severe shortages for months. Patients had to purchase their own medication at retail pharmacies.

Mashile was inspired to investigate the issues of medication shortages through his own difficulty accessing his and his nephew’s medication at a clinic. Mashile interviewed multiple individuals in the healthcare sector in Mpumalanga and the narratives were always the same – there were shortages across the province and it was jeopardising the lives of patients.

It is alleged that Mtsweni used the money for her re-election campaign, as she faced a strong opponent.

Mtsweni alleges that she was not given the opportunity to respond to Mashile’s claims and what he has written is defamatory. Mashile said that he tried to get hold of the Premier’s office multiple times but to no avail.

CFE is concerned that this appears to be a SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) case, where legal action is used to harass journalists and prevent them doing their work. CFE is deeply concerned by the proliferation of SLAPP cases across Southern Africa.

As of 09 July 2024, the case is ongoing.

 

Contact: Anton Harber                                                                Contact: Bheki Mashile

anton@harber.co.za                                                                     mashile.bmdmedia.bheki26@gmail.com

+27 83 303 9497                                                                             +27 61 324 6006

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