EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi shared a photo of Msimang speaking with this image above him on Twitter. This immediately led to a storm of outrage from EFF supporters.
Date: 07 December 2018 By: Jo Robinson
An uproar erupted, following the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards Ceremony on 29 November 2018 that culminated in the vandalising of the Vodacom shop at Checkers in Louis Trichardt last Friday, as well as the one in the Mall of the North. The shop remained closed on Monday but opened its doors again on Tuesday.
The keynote address at the Vodacom ceremony was presented by the chairperson of Corruption Watch, Mavuso Msimang. While speaking, he presented various slides on the screen behind him. One of the slides portrayed the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Julius Malema, and his deputy, Floyd Shivambu. The caption on this picture read “Abusers of Democracy”. EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi shared a photo of Msimang speaking with this image above him on Twitter. This immediately led to a storm of outrage from EFF supporters.
Vodacom responded to Ndlozi’s tweet with a statement of their own, remaining neutral. However, their stance did not stop at least two Vodacom outlets from being vandalised. The attacks left the employees in these shops traumatised, and in the case of three workers at the Vodacom shop in the Mall of the North in Polokwane, injured.
The 30 November tweet from Vodacom makes it clear that they are not going to take sides or throw anyone under a bus, even though it later became clear that they had had no idea what their guest was planning on saying: “Vodacom can confirm that Corruption Watch chairperson, Mavuso Msimang, was invited to give the keynote address at last night's Vodacom Journalist of the Year awards. We believe in freedom of expression and would not censor Mr Msimang's views; or those of other opinion makers”.
Msimang wrote in an article for the Daily Maverick on Monday that he had been horrified to learn that, in an act of “unbridled thuggery, EFF supporters had ransacked Vodacom shops …purportedly to protest my use of the slide depicting the EFF leader and his deputy”. He goes on to state for the record that Vodacom officials had had absolutely no prior knowledge of the subject matter of his talk, which he had titled Advances and Abuses of Democracy in South Africa. Msimang then publishes the speech he gave at the Vodacom Award Ceremony in its entirety after commenting that “the EFF is increasingly showing a flagrant disrespect for the freedom of expression, a central tenet of democracy”. In his address, Msimang had cited several examples of democracy in South Africa when it worked and when it did not. He said that “while the EFF gained deserved popularity when it led what most people thought was a fight against corruption ... something went frightfully wrong.” He lists rudeness, abusiveness, thuggery and bullying of journalists and others who disagree with the EFF as appearing to be their new modus operandi.
The attackers were all wearing the distinctive red of the EFF. However, the EFF distanced itself from what happened on Monday, with EFF Limpopo regional secretary Jossey Buthane stating that, just because people chose to wear any particular party’s T-shirts, that did not mean that they were members of that party. Also on Monday, the leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Limpopo, Mr Jacques Smalle, addressed the media outside the Polokwane police station after laying charges against the EFF. “The DA has laid additional criminal charges against the EFF. The EFF have continually proved to be violent and destructive constitutional delinquents that have abused the right to freedom of expression as set out in Section 16 of the Constitution. Despite the South African Police having the car used to transport the hooligans in custody and the details of the car owner, no arrests have been made. We demand that an arrest be made in this case,” Smalle said.
Charges added by the DA were malicious damage to property estimating the damage done to the Vodacom store in Polokwane alone at R500 000, and charges of accessory to a crime for the owner of the vehicle used.
The Louis Trichardt Vodacom franchise shop was open for business as usual on Tuesday, with clearly traumatised staff smiling and bravely doing their work. Management and staff, however, had no comment for the newspaper.
Finalising the matter later in the day, Vodacom and the EFF issued a joint statement, stating that the two parties had met the previous day to discuss the comments and slides presented at the Vodacom ceremony and the subsequent unrest. Part of the statement reads “…in the meeting, the parties discussed the matter in detail and have resolved the issue. Vodacom acknowledged that it is politically neutral and it doesn't influence party political positions in any way. Vodacom and the EFF appreciate that the matter could have been handled differently to avoid the misunderstanding that occurred. Vodacom and the EFF encourage the right of freedom of speech and the free circulation of ideas. The parties also committed to engage on policy issues of mutual interest and consider the matter to be closed”.
Jo joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in 2018 pursuing a career in journalism after many years of writing fiction and non-fiction for other sectors.