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Fake news attack launched against judges, NDPP

Publish date: 11 September 2019
Issue Number: 4780
Diary: Legalbrief Today
Category: General

The judiciary and public prosecutors have come under fire from a social media blitz, condemned as a ‘scurrilous fake news’ Twitter campaign by Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) Judge President Dunstan Mlambo and ‘utter rubbish’ by NDPP Shamila Batohi, reports Legalbrief. According to a Business Day report, the campaign claims judges who had ruled in favour of President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister Pravin Gordhan in their court battles with Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane had received hundreds of thousands of rands in payments from Ramaphosa's ANC election campaign fund, CR17. Business Day says data analysis of the Twitter accounts linked to the campaign shows they are largely aligned to the EFF and are proponents of ‘radical economic transformation’.

Among the claims are that Batohi had been paid R1 750 000 by Ramaphosa's campaign fund. Speaking on SAFM yesterday, Batohi said the rumours were 'a lie', and she would not be detracted from her work as a result of them. TimesLIVE says Twitter has been awash with claims, backed by a purported 'list', claiming that certain judges and people had allegedly been paid various amounts by the fund. The list circulated at the same time that damning revelations were published by the Daily Maverick about a money trail linking EFF leader Julius Malema to an alleged spending spree involving millions siphoned from VBS Mutual Bank. According to the rumours, Batohi was paid the money on 14 March 2018. 'Well I'm not sure I should dignify that with a response actually,' was her initial reaction. 'I don't know why people do this and I don't want to speculate about it and I will not be distracted by it,' she added. 'I think these are tactics to try to distract you from doing your work and this is the start of it. There is going to be a lot more and I realise I have to fortify myself against these attacks. When I was interviewed I said this is a shark tank and it seems like the attacks have started but this will not distract us from our important work.'

Full Business Day report

Full TimesLIVE report

Batohi can expect much more, according to a News24 commentary on the latest Twitter farce. The closer Batohi and the NPA, including Advocate Hermione Cronje's Investigative Directorate, come to charging the big fish, the more fire will be directed at her, it says. The purpose of this weak disinformation effort is to undermine her credibility and tie her to Ramaphosa, who really is in political strife because of some ill-advised money donations. If enough doubt can be sowed in the public's mind about Batohi's independence and judgment, it will be much easier to attack decisions to prosecute politically explosive cases, says the News24 article. The document ‘showing’ that Batohi was given money by the Ramaphosa campaign is obviously bogus. But it's a shot across the bow of Batohi and the NPA. It's a message: Come any closer, and things could get worse. Could it be related to VBS? asks News24, which added it is understood that the civil matters are progressing well and that recoveries are happening apace. The criminal matters are all that are outstanding.

Full News24 assessment