Absa considers laying criminal charges after BLF members storm branch

Absa says it has video footage and photos of on Thursday’s incident in which supporters of the BLF stormed the building leaving a customer injured.

Black First Land First Leader Andile Mngxitama.  Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – Absa bank says it’s considering laying criminal charges against the Black First Land First (BLF) movement after some members of the organisation stormed one of its branches at Gandhi Square in the Johannesburg CBD.

Absa says it has video footage and photos of Thursday’s incident in which supporters of the BLF stormed the building leaving a customer injured.

The bank was granted an urgent court interdict against BLF after the movement mounted a campaign against it.

Absa’s spokesperson Songezo Zibi says that Thursday’s incident left staff members traumatised.

“Customers were affected. One customer was injured and the staff were quite traumatised because it’s not just an attempt to do so, it’s the threat of violence if they do not shut down the branch.”

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Meanwhile, BLF leader Andile Mngxithama says the decision by the High Court that it would hand down its ruling on Friday in a media freedom case will make no difference.

The South African Editor's Forum (Sanef) has taken BLF to the High Court in a bid to stop its members from intimidating and harassing journalists.

Just minutes after the judge announced he would hand down his ruling on Friday, Mngxithama said the judge would not rule in the BLF’s favour because he’s white.

“Will this judge come back tomorrow and be fair to us? When have white people been fair to black people?"

Last week, the group protested outside Tiso Blackstar Editor Peter Bruce's home and painted the words “land or death” on his garage door.

Sanef chair Mahlatsi Gallens says everyone has a duty to uphold the law.

“That is quite disappointing because what keeps us as a nation is upholding the rule of law. If we have the BLF saying they are not going to respect the courts, then that’s where we need to see police taking action.”

Gallens says that threats against journalists must stop.

“We stand firm that media freedom is part and parcel of strengthening our democracy and journalists should have the right to do their work freely, without fear and without favour.”

Sanef says it’s confident that the High Court will rule in its favour when judgment is handed down at noon on Friday.

The forum says it is pleased with the proceedings following the judge’s ruling that its case is indeed urgent.

Sanef's Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi has asked the court to rule in their favour to avoid harm to journalists.

But BLF's Mngxitama says they will continue with their protests.

“We are going to continue protesting against any racist journalists. We are not going to stop.”

The PAC, ANC and other parties have both condemned the intimidation of journalists.

The parties will meet again in court on Friday for judgment.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)