Durban - World-acclaimed photographer David Goldblatt has received antiretroviral treatment after a robber, grappling for his camera at the Warwick Triangle elephant sculptures, bit a chunk of his hand down to the bone.
Noted for his portrayal of South Africa during apartheid, the 83-year-old Gauteng man has been traversing the country capturing landscape images, but Tuesday was the first time he had been robbed.
On Wednesday, police accompanied him and his daughter, Brenda, to the scene of the crime.
They found a hide-out near the pedestrian bridge over the N3 near Warwick Avenue that criminals were apparently using as they lay in wait to ambush people, including those visiting the unfinished sculptures at the entrance to the city.
Goldblatt pointed out two suspects who he thought might have been part of the gang that robbed him. They were taken for questioning.
Walking back to the site accompanied by police, Goldblatt said he was glad to be alive.
He said he was afraid of violence and violent people.
He and film director Clifford Bestall were setting up their equipment on Tuesday to capture images of the sculptures when they were attacked by three men who robbed Bestall of his video camera.
Bestall said on Wednesday they had arrived at 6.45am, parked their van on the pavement and walked across to the incomplete sculptures.
He said he had begun filming when he saw two men walk up to Goldblatt a few metres away.
A third man approached Bestall.
“I knew we were in danger so I gave the one man the money from my pocket, thinking they will leave Goldblatt and run off. One of the guys held a knife to his back while another removed his phone and R2 000 cash from his pocket,” Bestall said.
“One of the men tried to take Goldblatt’s Nikon camera and tripod but he refused and put up a fight. The one bit him and that’s when the guy standing next to me ripped my camera away from me.”
The robber bit off a chunk of flesh on Goldblatt’s right hand, between his fingers and knuckles.
“He bit me down to the bone,” Goldblatt said as he continued to relate his ordeal while at the Etna Lane satellite police station in Warwick Triangle.
Goldblatt, who received an honorary fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in 2007, said he and Bestall had driven from Gauteng to Durban to photograph “structures under democracy”, including the elephants.
Bestall is compiling material for a documentary of Goldblatt’s work as a photographer.
After they were held up, the robbers ran into the N3 Durban-bound peak traffic, weaving and dodging cars, said Bestall.
“No one helped us. All I heard was hooters blaring and they were gone. I am deeply hurt. I lost my Canon C300 professional camera with three days of work on it,” he said.
“I have been a cameraman for many years looking for trouble but trouble came to me this time.”
Bestall, who has been making socio-political documentaries for international broadcasters for the past 25 years, appealed to the public to contact the police if they have information on the location of his camera.
Goldblatt, whose works have been published in 15 books, some which are held in major museum collections worldwide, said the robbery would not deter him. He said he would be back on Thursday to continue his work – this time with a hired security guard and hopefully the police.
“After the incident I rushed to the hospital where I received treatment and medication for hepatitis and ARV treatment. I had to undergo plastic surgery on my fist,” he said.
The spokesman for the eThekwini Municipality, Thabo Mofokeng, said the mugging was “regrettable”.
He said had they known that there was going to be a photo shoot at the site security might have been provided.
While an agreement had been reached between the municipality and artist Andries Botha to complete the sculptures, Botha “was not yet at a stage where he will move on site”, Mofokeng said. “When he does go onto the site, we will review the security…”
Botha, who heard about the robbery from Brenda Goldblatt, said he was “saddened”.
Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said anyone concerned about security while in the Warwick area could go to the satellite police station for assistance.