Journalist to approach high court over Stratcom files

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JOHANNESBURG, April 16 – Veteran journalist Thandeka Gqubule said on Monday she would approach the high court to have the Stratcom files released in order to clear her name.

She was speaking in the aftermath of the screening of the documentary ”Winnie” which alleged that some journalists were paid to help escalate apartheid state propaganda against the late struggle icon, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Gqubule, who was a journalist at the then Weekly Mail, the forerunner of the Mail & Guardian, said none of her sources at the time were police officers.

She said she wanted the declassification of files of the covert apartheid propaganda project, called Stratcom, that recruited agents to spy on anti-apartheid activists. In the documentary, Madikizela-Mandela tells producer Pascale Lamche that journalists such as Gqubule were used by the then apartheid government to tarnish her legacy in the struggle against apartheid.

Gqubule arrived at Monday’s media briefing by former safety and security minister Sydney Mufamadi and asked if he heard of her and her colleagues at Weekly Mail being part of Stratcom.

”All the sources were members of the mass democratic movement from which I was rooted from the age of 14. Others were either in the church or were neighbours or community members. I want to know when you first sat in your desk as minister and people, did you come across me or any of my former colleagues being agents of Stratcom? Or did you hear about our honest investigative journalism, whose investigations was well ahead of that of the police…did you hear anything?” Gqubule asked.

Mufamadi said South Africa should thank Gqubule and her colleagues for the good journalism they produced at the time.

”I do not know why it was said that you worked for Stratcom…you cannot work for Stratcom and then expose their operations. I can tell you that no one in the police came to me as the minister and presented the Stratcom documentation to me. The files were either taken away, destroyed….others kept them as individuals.”

Mufamadi said as far as he could recall, the people who were in charge of the Stratcom files either kept them or destroyed them as no one knows where the documents are.

The award-winning documentary was first shown to invited guests, who included Madikizela-Mandela and her family, some ANC leaders and ministers invited to the screening in Newtown, Johannesburg in June 2017.

It was broadcast publicly for the first time in the aftermath of Madikizela-Mandela’s death. It drew an outcry on social media, prompting ANC leaders such as President Cyril Ramaphosa to apologise to Madikizela-Mandela during her funeral on Saturday.

– African News Agency (ANA)