Home » Controversial South African mogul Zunaid Moti loses case against amaBhungane Centre

Controversial South African mogul Zunaid Moti loses case against amaBhungane Centre

by Mfonobong Nsehe
Zunaid Moti

The amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, a well-respected South African investigative journalism organization, won a legal battle on Monday against Moti Group, previously controlled by controversial businessman Zunaid Moti. The case tested the freedom of the country’s media.

Earlier, the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism was prohibited from using documents obtained from a source in its reporting on Zunaid Moti, who claimed the documents were stolen.

However, High Court Judge Roland Sutherland reportedly overturned that order on Monday, stating that it was “an abuse of the court process.”

The organization had been conducting an extensive investigation into the tycoon, who was accused of unethical business practices, including dealings with President Emmerson Mnangagwa of neighboring Zimbabwe.

In a series of articles, amaBhungane revealed how Zunaid Moti allegedly leveraged his connections with Zimbabwe’s political elite to secure profitable mining contracts.

Judge Sutherland emphasized that “receiving information from anonymous sources is a crucial aspect of effective investigative journalism” and that, within certain limits, the law recognizes the need to protect sources from being exposed.

A significant part of the case, heard last week, focused on distinguishing between press freedom and privacy protection.

“We are thrilled by this strong validation of investigative journalism and amaBhungane’s commitment to pursuing it with integrity and in the public interest,” said Sam Sole, the editor-in-chief, in a statement to AFP.

In a recent interview with AFP, Sole highlighted the financial strain the center faced in mounting a defense against a well-financed opponent, as the organization relies on donations.

The amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism is a non-profit organization with 13 journalists specializing in uncovering political corruption. It is funded by the public and NGOs.

The organization takes its name from the Zulu word for dung beetle, a diligent species that plays a crucial role in its ecosystem.

Last month, the charity was shocked when another high court judge ordered it to cease publishing further reports on Zunaid Moti and hand over the documents used in the investigation.

The Moti Group, previously headed by Zunaid Moti, is a conglomerate with a substantial international portfolio, including property development, mining, and aviation. In March, Moti stepped down from running the day to day affairs of the group over fraud charges.

In a statement, the company said it was considering appealing the judgment at the Constitutional Court, arguing that there was no factual finding regarding amaBhungane’s possession of stolen documents.

“While I genuinely appreciate and support press freedom, I do not believe it should come at the expense of anyone’s constitutional right to privacy,” said Dondo Mogajane, the company’s CEO and South Africa’s former treasury boss.

The court also ordered the Moti Group to cover amaBhungane’s legal fees.

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