Unlike Nelson Mandela, who knew how to woo the press, tension between the media and President Thabo Mbeki is on the increase. On 6 February 2001 Essop Pahad, minister in the presidency, said that the South African government is a victim of systematic hostility from the press.
"We face a situation that is almost unique in democratic countries. The ultra-majority political tendency in South Africa represented by the ANC [African National Congress] does not have the slightest representation in the media", he explained. While reaffirming his attachment to press freedom, he denounced the "irresponsible journalism" of certain publications. Throughout the year 2001 the South African press fiercely criticised the diplomatic and Aids policies of President Thabo Mbeki. As a result of the situation the government organised a conference in June, attended by about 60 journalists, with a view to improving their working relations. President Mbeki closed the conference by acknowledging the government’s share of responsibility.
On 9 February the newspaper The Star reported that the minister of security had obtained an out-of-court settlement with journalist Thabo Mabaso. In June 1998 the journalist had lost an eye during an assault by nine policemen. Three of them were found guilty and sentenced to jail.
One journalist killed
On 19 June 2001 Asnath Mhlongo, host on the radio station Munghana Lonene FM, died in a fire in her house. Neighbours managed to save her children but the fire was too intense to save the journalist. Witnesses say they saw a man leave the house just before the fire started. There is no evidence that this affair was related to the journalists’ professional activities.
One journalist attacked
On 15 January 2001 Jimmy Seepe, politics editor of the weekly City Press was hospitalised after being hit in the chest by a bullet during a hold-up in Taldi, in Soweto. According to the journalist, this attack was related to some of his articles.
Pressure and obstruction
On 23 March 2001 Tyrone Seale, a mixed-race journalist with the daily Die Beeld was refused access to the congress of the extreme right-wing Herstigte National Party (HNP) because of the colour of his skin. The party secretary explained that "only Afrikaners are welcome [...]. In our definition of Afrikaner, you have to be White".
In April the People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD), an Islamist civil organisation, threatened all journalists who collaborated with the courts in the case of a drug dealer murdered by members of this militia. Several journalists who had witnessed the execution of the criminal were summoned to appear in court. The daily Die Burger announced that it would not cooperated with the judiciary for fear of reprisals against two of its reporters. In May, Benny Gool, former photographer for the Cape Times, refused to testify, in the name of journalistic ethics. The prosecutor asked for his arrest but the judge refused.