Sonke Gender Justice joins the South African National Editor’s Forum (SANEF) and other civil society organisations in condemning the recent threats made against talk show host, journalist and producer Karima Brown by supporters of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
On Wednesday 6 March 2019, Brown inadvertently sent a message intended for her producers to an EFF media WhatsApp group. Brown urged her colleagues to observe the gendered make-up of the group of elders whom Malema was meeting with, writing:
“Keep an eye out for this. Who are the elders? Are they all male, and how are they chosen? Keep watching brief (sic).”
Malema then republished this message, together with Brown’s cellphone number to Twitter where he has 2.34 million followers. Some of those followers sent abusive, racist voice notes and text messages directly to Brown’s phone including threats of sexual assault and rape. In an interview with SABC News on 6 March, Brown said: “I hold Mr Malema responsible because he is a candidate for this election.” To date Malema has failed to apologise.
Our leaders hold power over the public’s perceptions of violence as well as their actions. And in South Africa, a country with some of the highest rates of GBV and femicide in the world, allowing threats of this nature to spread unchecked is shockingly irresponsible and shows a disregard for these realities. Malema’s statements regarding the extent of violence against women in South Africa are insufficient – in addition he must publicly apologise to Brown for his transgression, which led to the outpouring of abuse against her.
Sonke notes this is not the first time that Brown or other journalists have been threatened by the EFF. In late 2018 SANEF lodged a complaint with the Equality Court, “following a barrage of abusive and dangerous threats against journalists in South Africa.”
Sonke expresses grave concern about these attacks on Brown and other journalists as well as their gendered nature. We note that these threats are consistent with the hypermasculine, militarised rhetoric displayed by the EFF and their supporters.
A robust, independent media is vital for the functioning of our democracy. Members of the media must be allowed to do their job without fear or intimidation and in the lead up to the elections this is even more critical.
Section 8 of the The Electoral Code of Conduct calls on registered parties and candidates to:
“take all reasonable steps to ensure that journalists are not subjected to harassment, intimidation, hazard, threat or physical assault by any of their representatives or supporters”
In addition, Section 6 states that:
“Every registered party and every candidate must: (a) respect the right of women to communicate freely with parties and candidates; (b) facilitate the full and equal participation of women in political activities; (c) ensure the free access of women to all public political meetings, marches, demonstrations, rallies and other public political events; and (d) take all reasonable steps to ensure that women are free to engage in any political activities.”
Those who transgress the Code of Conduct and abuse their power through harassment and intimidation must be held to account. We therefore echo calls made by civil society, SANEF and Brown for the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to monitor political parties and take decisive action against transgressions made.
Sonke reiterates our support for Brown and we join SANEF in calling for Malema and the leadership of the EFF to apologise to her.
Sonke will be laying a complaint against Malema with the Commission for Gender Equality.
For comments, please contact:
Bafana Khumalo, Senior Strategic Advisor, Sonke Gender Justice, firstname.lastname@example.org, 082 578 4479
Kayan Leung, Legal and Litigation Manager, Sonke Gender Justice, kayan@genderjustice.
Marike Keller, Acting Policy Development and Advocacy Unit Manager, Sonke Gender Justice, email@example.com, 083 259 6573