Last week amaBhungane and our lawyers were scrambling to submit our legal papers opposing Zunaid Moti’s attempt to take his case against us to the Constitutional Court. Our affidavit had to be signed and delivered by midday on Tuesday.
Our deponent, Dewald van Rensburg, was stuck in Cape Town, unable to get to the airport because a business mafia was using street violence to bolster its dispute with the City of Cape Town. Our lawyers’ Cape Town office was closed for the same reason.
Meanwhile Moti was sponsoring and leading a nauseating sweetheart media tour to what is effectively a minor mafia state, Zimbabwe, where the Mnangagwa regime, like its predecessor, is preparing to steal an election – again.
The media invite from Moti’s Zimbabwean cash cow, African Chrome Fields (ACF) made it clear the tour from 7-12 August was mainly a free joyride.
It promised that “ACF will take care of all your needs during the trip which will include your travel, accommodation, meals during the trip and more” and that the itinerary would include “Victoria Falls, Safaris, Borrowdale Village, Markets, Lunch with ministers, ACF mine and school, State house visit and more!”
In case there was any doubt, it noted that the tour was “fully supported by the Government of Zimbabwe,” which dubbed the junket “The True Zimbabwe Tour”.
At the gala dinner hosted by the Zimbabwean minister of information the symbiotic relationship between Moti and the Zimbabwe regime was on full display.
Hitching his pony to Zanu-PF’s trusty anti-Western propaganda wagon, Moti told the assembled guests and hired celebrities (including Pearl Thusi, Sonia Mbele, and Sello Maake Ka-Ncube) that “it is not right that the West create the impressions and the innuendos that Zimbabwe is a failed country, a failed state.”
Later he used his social media channels to challenge people to invest in Zimbabwe, saying, “I love doing business down there because things get done.”
Ironically, it is amaBhungane’s exposés of just how he gets things done in Zimbabwe that Moti is objecting to in his Concourt filing.
The Moti Group’s application for direct access to the Constitutional Court is an audacious attempt to resurrect the case thrown out by Gauteng deputy judge president Roland Sutherland (read the full judgment here).
Sutherland ruled the Moti Group had committed a “most egregious abuse” of the court process in seeking and obtaining a gag order on an urgent, ex-parte, in-camera basis – in other words, without us knowing a thing about it.
When amaBhungane sought to be heard for the first time in front of Sutherland, the Moti Group attempted to bolster its original case on which the gag order was granted.
Moti’s lawyers attempted to shift their argument from a case based on ownership of the Moti Group documents leaked to us, to a new case based on a constitutional claim to privacy.
Sutherland said this too was an abuse.
“An applicant cannot make out a better case for the ex parte order than the case it put before the court when the order was granted. It was for this reason that an attempt by [the Moti Group] to bring a counterclaim… was dismissed by me out of hand. It was irregular and yet another abuse of the process.”
The Moti Group is now attempting to re-run this case at the Constitutional Court, without even the courtesy of an application for leave from Sutherland.
Moti’s lawyers have probably told him that it’s a very long shot (read our opposing affidavit here) but that’s not the point.
Moti has money to burn to prop up his reputation, and to force us to divert scarce resources from doing our jobs to fighting expensive court battles – as he explained here, noting in June already, “You wanna fight with us, and pick a fight with us with that type of Tom [cash]? I don’t know about that.”
We may win against Moti this time because of his shockingly ill-judged founding case, but he will come again – or somebody else will.
Moti has exposed a nasty truth about the state of our media: it is weak and the number of people with the independence, skills, professionalism and ethics to justifiably call themselves journalists is shrinking and under pressure.
Moti has shown that with money, a PR company and a slick social media campaign, you can bypass the media you can’t buy off. He’s also shown that when an aggressive legal strategy is backed by such a propaganda onslaught, you can win (as he did in the first round) and it hardly matters that you may lose in the end.
Others are only too ready to get stuck in to widen the breach Moti has exposed, as the ‘Alex Mafia’ case decided last week shows (read the judgment here).
That’s why it is so important for South Africans to offer support in one way or another to genuine independent journalism and journalists – not just amaBhungane (though you can catch our fund-raising video here) – but everyone who upholds the constitutional duty to shine a light in dark corners and hold power to account.