Faizel Patel, Radio Islam News-2013-05-15
De Wet Potgieter’s exposé: “Al-Qaeda: Alive and well in South Africa” in the Daily Maverick has sparked a media frenzy, resulting in a plethora of criticism from the Muslim community, analysts and journalists.
On Radio Islam’s Global Debate on Wednesday (15 May 2013), Moulana Sulaimaan Ravat hosted Zahid Asmal, a representative of the Media Review Network (MRN) and De Wet Potgieter, the author of the controversial article.
Potgieter sidestepped most questions posed to him by Zahid Asmal and Moulana Ravat, feigning ignorance at the repercussions of his allegations in the article.
Potgieter told Moulana Ravat that he didn’t receive any financial compensation while researching the story as it was done in his private time before the Daily Maverick employed him. He denied accusations that he cut-and-pasted a segment of the article from the US Treasury website where he mentions the 2007 allegations that Junaid Dockrat was financing terrorist activities.
In the article Potgieter seems to equate the Boeremag evidence to the Dockrat case. Farhad Dockrat however alleges that Potgieter may have been upset that white Christian Afrikaners were pursued by government in the Boeremag case, yet Indian Muslims were not being pursued in the Dockrat case. (Full Press Release)
Potgieter failed to provide any information as to who issued instructions for the investigations to be stopped. He merely said: “I couldn’t get any official comment from the government why it was stopped.” Potgieter also has no evidence to back up his claim that the investigation was stopped because ‘high ranking individuals exerted improper influence.’
Further, Potgieter could not provide any solid evidence as to why or who stopped the investigation into the Dockrat’s activities saying: “There is intelligence evidence (information).” Asked by Moulana Ravat who the intelligence sources were and if the evidence could be corroborated, Potgieter replied in the affirmative, but that he was not at liberty to divulge the details. He also could not provide a viable response when asked if the investigation was stopped because the government did not have sufficient evidence to prosecute the Dockrat’s in a court of law.
In his article Potgieter says the investigation was stopped in 2010. However the Hawks confirmed there in an ongoing investigation, discrediting Potgieter’s statement. “So is it ongoing or has it stopped, because either you are incorrect or the Hawks are incorrect? It can’t be both?” asked Moulana Ravat.
Potgieter seemed uneasy when answering this question saying, “Unless they’ve started the investigation since I’ve started enquiring about it, I don’t know.”
Asked by Asmal why the South African Intelligence agencies would call off an important investigation -- Potgieter once again simply said: “I don’t know.”
Potgieter seemingly contradicted himself when he told Moulana Ravat and Zahid Asmal that he doesn’t believe the SA government is “fool hardy” in investigating intelligence claims. Yet his article clearly states that the government is turning a blind eye to the Dockrat activities.
Potgieter denied vehemently that his article is xenophobic in nature. He said: “the last thing I would like to be is xenophobic”. His article however states: “the cause of the anxiety stems from the fact that thousands of illegal immigrants from Pakistan managed to cross into South Africa while the government appears to turn a blind eye.”
When asked who specifically was anxious about the illegal immigrants entering South Africa Potgieter mumbled: “local people.”
Asked by Moulana Ravat if he (Potgieter) tested the credibility of the allegations against the Dockrat’s by the US, and why he didn’t feature a counter perspective in his article as any good journalist would do, he replied by saying: “I did have a look yes … no I didn’t find that piece.”
In an article on the Mail and Guardian website, “Waiting for more evidence on al-Qaeda in SA” , Faranaaz Parker quotes analyst Naeem Jeena (Director of the Afro-Middle East Centre) as saying: “As South Africans we should be sensitive about saying things like: 'they employed Malawian’s instead of local coloureds'. A few years ago that was the type of statement that got foreigners killed, and even now [in South Africa] Somalian’s are frequently killed.”
Potgieter’s claims regarding a farm in the Little Karoo were not cross-referenced. Allegedly prompted to write by racist Afrikaners farmers who are farming in the Little Karoo, an agreement was put together by farmers to deny the Dockrat’s water. In his article Potgieter states that the Dockrat’s lost the case. The Dockrat’s did however win the case with costs. Zahid Asmal quoted court records with a valid case numbers -- (25325/2010 & 21794/2011). Clearly Potgieter failed to check or cross-reference the statement of the farmers after they told him they had won the case before writing the article.
Potgieter said it’s not for him to decide whether the Dockrat’s are guilty or not. However, it remains absolutely clear that his article suggests the Dockrat’s are guilty even before trial.
Irate callers asked Moulana Ravat to pass on messages to the Dockrat family: ‘sue this journalist to set an example, not only for themselves but for the entire Muslim community, because we are tired of this Islamophobia in this country…’
As a seasoned journalist, De Wet Potgieter’s article and on air responses are a regrettable sacrifice of journalistic integrity. The article fails to provide credible proof of the accusations labeled against the Dockrat family. It is at best described as lazy investigative journalism that breeds fear and xenophobic backlash, clearly in the disinterests of building harmony in South Africa.
Click here to listen podcast of the full interview