Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa issued a scathing statement against civil rights group AfriForum for what he labelled an irresponsible media “stunt” it allegedly pulled last week. TheMediaOnline considers both sides of the story.
The ministry of police issued an angrily worded statement on Thursday, a day after AfriForum delivered letters to the minister to raise awareness about the highly emotive matter of farm attacks. Ministerial spokesman Zweli Mnisi started by referring to an incident two years ago, where, he said, AfriForum “pulled the same stunt”.
The ‘stunt’ he is referring to is one often used by trade unions to attract journalists to attend an event — inviting the media with the claim that a minister would be present, without confirming this with the minister’s office. (Any experienced hack knows better than to take any trade union at its word when an invite to an event claims that a minister, or sometimes even the president of the country, would attend. The more experienced among us would probably question why the invite did not originate from the minister’s office, and would then call the minister’s office to check if he or she would indeed attend the event.)
This is how a clearly upset Mnisi described the matter: “The Ministry of Police has noted a very disturbing trend by AfriForum over the past few years, which has potential to compromise our efforts in the fight against crime.
“Two years ago, AfriForum invited the media to their meeting in Pretoria, under false pretence that the Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa was to address their gathering. The Ministry learnt about this miscommunication when the media contacted us to confirm the Minister’s attendance.
“Shockingly, we were unaware as no official invite was sent to this office.”
This was a “desperate attempt” to use Mthethwa as a “draw card”.
Mnisi went on to say that AfriForum last week, ”pulled a similar stunt”, when it delivered letters and a memorandum addressed to the minister about farm murders.
“The office of the Minister received several queries from the media about a meeting with the AfriForum which, apparently, is scheduled for today,” Mnisi said at the time.
“Again, no official meeting was confirmed with AfriForum and we accordingly advised members of the media, of this unfortunate publicity stunt.”
Mnisi quoted from an email Afriforum deputy CEO Ernst Roets sent before the event, stating: “This e-mail serves to inform you that a lady whose brother and father was murdered on a farm during the holidays will be delivering a bundle of letters, addressed to the minister at your office tomorrow.
“AfriForum will assist her and will also present the memorandum on farm attacks that you refused to accept on the 1 December 2012. We are planning to arrive at your offices at about 12:00. I should mention that members of the media might be present. We are not expecting a meeting with the minister or yourself tomorrow, but it will be appreciated if you or another representative of the minister were to accept the letter, instead of leaving us to drop it of at the reception.”
Asked by TheMediaOnline to comment, AfriForum’s head of community safety, Reg Crewe, responded.
“The purpose of AfriForum’s ‘Stop the Murders’ campaign is not to mock SAPS or the efforts of the police. In contrast, AfriForum recognises and supports the good work and strides made in arresting and prosecuting perpetrators of farm attacks and farm murders. In most of the recent attacks, suspects have been arrested and AfriForum has great praise for the hardworking members of the police.”
He said that all AfriForum wanted was for the minister to spare a few minutes to listen to its case.
“To spare five minutes out of his busy day to receive letters from families of victims would go a long way to restore the faith of the community in his will to address these matters.”
Crewe described it as “sad” that AfriForum needed to revert to “activist measures” to get attention.
“It is a reflection of the sad state of affairs in government that AfriForum has to use activist measures to get the attention of the top brass. The recent marches to Parliament and Church Square to hand over memorandums on farm murders are just two examples of bringing attention to the enormity of the crimes being committed.”
The question TheMediaOnline asks, is an “activist measure” and a “publicity stunt” the same thing?
And does the end justify AfriForum’s means?
TheMediaOnline will let the reader decide. Let us know what you think.