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DA questions SA’s role in Hammerl’s death


hammerl_may 20

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Missing SA photographer Anton Hammerl.

The opposition DA on Friday questioned the South African government's role in communicating news about photographer Anton Hammerl.

It emerged on Friday morning that he was killed on the day of his capture, more than six weeks ago, despite government assurances that he was safe.

His family only found this out on Thursday evening, after being contacted by two journalists who were with him when he was shot in the Libyan desert.

“It is unclear what the South African government did or did not know. It is, however, simply unfathomable, and difficult to contemplate, that the minister of international relations would have given the family false hope, by claiming Mr Hammerl was still alive, last week,” Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said in a statement.

“It is equally galling that the minister cancelled an emergency meeting on this matter because, in the words of department spokesperson, Clayson Monyela, she had 'election commitments'.”

Zille said that “in the immediate aftermath of this sort of terrible news our focus must fall on the family and friends, but profoundly serious questions need to be asked of Minister Nkoana-Mashabane, and indeed President Jacob Zuma, in the weeks to come”.

The minister was expected to address the media on the matter in Pretoria at 9.30am on Friday.

The Hammerl family released a statement in the early hours of Friday morning saying they had been informed Hammerl had been shot on April 5.

“On 5 April 2011 Anton was shot by (Muammar) Gaddafi's forces in an extremely remote location in the Libyan desert. According to eyewitnesses, his injuries were such that he could not have survived without medical attention.

“Words are simply not enough to describe the unbelievable trauma the Hammerl family is going through,” the statement read.

“From the moment Anton disappeared in Libya we have lived in hope as the Libyan officials assured us that they had Anton. It is intolerably cruel that Gaddafi loyalists have known Anton's fate all along and chose to cover it up.”

Hammerl, who used to work for The Star newspaper, was initially reported to have been captured by militia loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi near Brega on April 5.

Hammerl's wife Penny Sukraj was told by American journalists Clare Morgana Gillis and James Foley of the shooting. The pair had been released from Libyan custody and spoke to her from Tunisia on Thursday night.

They were with Hammerl when they came under fire in the Libyan desert near the town of Brega. Hammerl was shot in the stomach, according to family friend Bronwyn Friedlander.

She said assurances of Hammerl's capture in Libya, apparently given to the South African and Austrian governments, were “incredibly cruel”.

GlobalPost.com reported that Hammerl had gone with Gillis, Foley and Spanish Photographer Manu Brabo with the intention of spending a night with the rebels at a camp east of Brega.

Foley told GlobalPost.com the four had exited their car and before they could get back into the car the rebels had done an about turn and fled approaching Gaddafi forces, leaving them behind.

He said Hammerl was closest to the fighting and that bullets were hitting the ground around the four. According to Foley when he asked Hammerl if he was okay, “no” was the only answer he received. After the third barrage of shots Hammerl's cries ceased.

The journalists surrendered to the rebels and the three were tied up and thrown into the back of a bakkie.

Foley saw Hammerl's limp body lying in the sand. He said Hammerl was shot in the abdomen and bleeding severely.

While in captivity, Foley said the three journalists wrestled with how to communicate the news of Hammerl's death to his family.

“We knew collectively that if we spoke about Hammerl's death while we were detained, then we would be in greater danger ourselves. But now that we're free, it's our moral imperative to tell the story of this great journalist and father,” he was quoted as saying.

National Press Club chairman Yusuf Abramjee said Hammerl's death was a shock.

“Our prayers and thoughts are with Anton's family, friends and colleagues. We are told he was shot on April 5. Why did it take so long to confirm his death? Anton will always be remembered as an outstanding photographer and a good human being. The news is devastating.

“To the Hammerl family, please accept the condolences of the entire media fraternity.”

Last week The Star quoted Nkoana-Mashabane as saying the South African government had proof that he was alive. However on Wednesday international relations and co-operation department spokesman Clayson Monyela denied the report saying; “That issue of the minister's quote was not captured correctly.”

Monyela could not be immediately reached on Friday for comment following news of Hammerl's death.

Last month well known photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed after coming under fire in the besieged Libyan town of Misrata. - Sapa


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jonathan, wrote

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02:44pm on 20 May 2011
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da, zille go to hell, he wanted to go and work there and dig in other peoples wars, its his problem, the government did not send him there, in fact thats what nosy journalists and photographers deserve

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MattB, wrote

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02:29pm on 20 May 2011
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This yet again smacks of our ministers stupidity or that we are a laughing stock of Africa. Didnt Pres Zuma visit Libya not so long ago. if he had left a decent impression then a reletionship of honesty would have transpired, but we see birds of a feather flock together. The only way the ANC Govt can repair this is to publicly condemn these actions and look to support Nato in ousting Gaddaffi - He is a murderer and should Go, but they wont as their policies are probably similar to Libya's (support zenophobia and corruption) and boy can you believe people voted for them AGAIN

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da4eva, wrote

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01:59pm on 20 May 2011
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Sigh. The ANC really need to get their act together. The bungling idiots will sweep this one under the carpet, because as we know, they side with Libya, China, Zimbabwe...you know, wherever people hate and kill other people indiscriminately. That's where you will find the spirit of the ANC. Dark and evil.

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thief, wrote

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01:48pm on 20 May 2011
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Zuma and Gadaffi are close friends. JZ could have done something, but didn't. Maybe because he is , like Juliaas would say : a "white thief"

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ET1, wrote

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12:35pm on 20 May 2011
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@ Anonymous – In the first place, if you had the opportunity to further your career overseas and something happened to you, would it be fair for other people to not regard you as a South African. I don’t think your family and friends would agree. Secondly, of course the DA is making “noises” about this, as it seems the politicians who are supposed to be in control isn’t going to do it. Which leads me to my third point. Yes, we cannot blame the government for his death. Anton was doing a high-risk job in which there’s always a possibility of dying. People like him show tremendous courage in putting their lives on the line for what they believe him. Which is less than I can say for most of us. What the government IS to blame for is their atrocious handling of the situation. When Zuma was in Libya, there was no news on whether he’d spoken to Gaddafi about Anton, although he had the perfect opportunity to do so. So, either Zuma didn’t care about the situation, and therefore did not find it important enough to speak about, or he spoke to Gaddafi, and found out that something had happened to Anton, and kept this quiet because of (most probably) political reasons - e.g. not to hamper the ANC’s image before the elections (strange that the news came out right after the elections). Frankly, I don’t know which of the two is worse. Between the Libyan and SA governments, they could rather have given the family the bad news that he was killed from the start, or at least have said that they don’t have a clue as to what’s going on, and what they’re trying to do about it, instead of giving his family false hope. So, ask yourself if you would have blamed the government for their actions if it had been one of YOUR family members who had been missing…

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Anonymous, wrote

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12:23pm on 20 May 2011
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shadowfly, this is not about the ANC why cant you white people get that, you are the one who needs to get over yourself, zille was aware of the false promised that was given to the SA gorvernment by libya , if she was so sure that was a lie , why didn't she do something , she is also part of this government , she waited till he died and now she says she new something wasn't right , please

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Shadowfly, wrote

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11:51am on 20 May 2011
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Aaah to listen to the ignornace of people,Journalists, expose the truth,his reasons for going to Libya to report on what is going on there, Anton did not deserve to die in the desert, alone and far from home. The ANC has NOTHING!!!you hear me??NOTHING to be proud of,your ministers and the like are not even capable of doing there jobs!!This is evident in a number of cases but more so with the minister of internation relations and how this situation was handled,a South African citizen was shot in the desert in Libya and we dealing with ELECTION COMMITTMENTS,HOW about standing up and saying he is a "SOUTH AFRICAN CITIZEN...LET HIM GO!!!" Julius is a further embarrassment!!! In addition to this Zille,and the DA runs a perfectly beautiful city like Cape Town, its like being in another country, you people are so bitter, get over yourselves!!! RIP Anton Hammerl, and thank you for bringing us the truth...

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Anonymous, wrote

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11:51am on 20 May 2011
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Libya is denger to go,any way he knew what he was getting himsefl into, i dont see how people have to point fingers. he knew the risks and he took them, so why blame the government, you idoits, he knew that he will either die or live. so which is it?

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Anonymous, wrote

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11:48am on 20 May 2011
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Its shocking that Zille always find a way to blame ANC for something that clearly has nothing to do with politics, instead of showing support to the family she goes and make this about race, its sad and pathetic zille, you need to focus on important things like "DELIVERING FOR ALL" like you promised

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Sithembiso, wrote

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11:35am on 20 May 2011
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The most saddening thing reading this story and comments is the level of calous political games people love to play, even on a story that is clearly a very sad ending of a journalist in Libya. It is cruel not only for Libya to kill him and give flase information and assurances to the SA government and Embassy in Libya, it is equally cruel for the DA and commentators here to use a family's trajedy to score political browny points. It indeed just shows how low we have gone as a people, our divisions are so ingrained. In 17 years of post-apartheid, we South Africans are further apart and divided racially than before. I am very saddened by the loss of a journalist, and really feel sad for his family, especially the shattering of the hope they had. For me this shows the true atrocities of war, conflict and levels of human right abuse and murder. Gaddafi and his juntas must be held to account for capturing media. Media freedom is enshrined in UN and journalists pursuing their profession of finding truth out there (whatever version of it), should never be victimised, just as doctors, soccer players, etc, also should work under free conditions.

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jd, wrote

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11:35am on 20 May 2011
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did anc send this hammerl 2libya,if not zille get a lyf

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Anonymous, wrote

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11:33am on 20 May 2011
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why is it that everytime something bad happens , Helen Zille wants to blame the Government, funny part she always exclude her self , like she is an outsider, why would someone purposely give false hope to the family, knowing very well that , that person is dead. Zille must stop making this about politics and focus on the family in need

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Anonymous, wrote

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10:34am on 20 May 2011
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Many people made jokes of ANC candidate who died after winning the votes. I won't say white people did made fun of it, but many were DA supporters who are also today now are at the center of telling people to feel remorse of the dead of this innocent photographer. Double standard and it shows that our country is deeply become more and more divided. People are becoming less moral (all race).

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Sly, wrote

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10:31am on 20 May 2011
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1. If SAAustria governments were mislead by Gaddafi's government, how is this SA's problem? as cruel as it is, SA did not send Hammerl there, he went out of his own accord looking for an award winning pic in a war torn country 2. Regardless of how he ended up there, I can tolerate Gaddaffi for as long as the oil chasing nations are still in Libya, but killing a south african? now that we cannot and we are not supposed to tolerate, JZ must grow a back bone and put that ugly man in his place 3. RIP Anton, I might not understand the decisions that led to you being in Lybia, it might have been your convictions about your job, but no one deserves to die like that. hope your family finds peace in these difficult times

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befok, wrote

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10:30am on 20 May 2011
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@Anonymous, I see absolutely no mention made of the ANC in the article. The article asks the question about the role of the South African Goverment you bloody agent. The Minister tried to defend her deceased husband, Norman Mashabane (RIP), by providing false statements to a Departmental board of enquiry, as well as to the SA courts and the then Minister of FA, when he was charged with sexual harrassment. She will not wink a eye to lie about something this serious, even to the family of this man.

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Mpho, wrote

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10:28am on 20 May 2011
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Condolences to the family. We must all not forget that there's a war in Lybia. I am of the mind that the SA embassy is not fully operational since there's a war there. What would Zille have done to bring Anton safely back home. She capitalises on all misfortunes to fight the ANC. Sorry for her because the elections are over and she cannot use that to get more support. Who knows, Hammerl could have already been dead when help was requested from the government to find and bring him safely back to SA.

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Bongz, wrote

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10:22am on 20 May 2011
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There goes the DA again because it is a white person they start making noise.

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Et tu Brute, wrote

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10:22am on 20 May 2011
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First and foremost on behalf of my family, and the ANC, people in Soweto, I'd like to pass my deepest condolences to the family and friends. Any countryTerrorist group can capture and falsify information to the another party...who are you going to blame? the party that received false information? how many times has the national party lied to the world? Helen, stop looking for elements that are not there...this is not a peridic table its information received from untrustworthy sources...it has happened with british citizens captured in the middle east, american citizens captured in Korea and now it has happened with south african citizen in Libya! But i must say, to you its politics...instead of firstly passing your condolences to the family, you want to maximise support

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Anonymous, wrote

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10:17am on 20 May 2011
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Oh my word the annonymous person that just posted a comment a while ago should firstly go back to school and bask in that wonderful education your government so willingly offers. Whether Mr. Anton Hammerl lived in South Africa or not he was still born and brought up here and has family and friends here that loved and cared about him. He in fact did South Africa proud by becoming such an outstanding photographer and for that I salute him. It's insensitive and foolish people like you who give South Africa a bad name. Our oh so wonderful government gave the family false hope about Mr Hammerl and they say it was not captured correctly what reasoning is that, so how many other things are "not captured correctly" in this country. So please man wake up and smell the coffee, our government does not nothing for us and do not care about us and this is proof of it. My condoloences to the berieving family and I pray for peace and comfort for the family and friends he leaves behind and for Mr Hammerl's soul to rest in peace.

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emmanuel, wrote

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10:15am on 20 May 2011
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oh actually i am speechless when it comes there but by the its sizzling and damn awesome and divine

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