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Refugee centre guard assaults photographer

Cape Town - Just days after a Cape Argus photographer was manhandled by a Home Affairs official, another photographer has been punched by Home Affairs security at the Customs House.

Thomas Holder, a freelance photographer taking pictures for the Argus, was outside the Refugee Reception Centre on the Foreshore yesterday, where a crowd of about 1 000 refugees had gathered to renew their asylum seeker documents.

A security staffer told a photographer to stop capturing the action. He declined and was punched in the chest by another guard.Picture: Thomas Holder. Credit: CAPE ARGUS

When the gate opened, they surged in and Holder started taking photos. “Almost immediately, personnel began spraying the refugees with water from a fire hose.

“I moved towards the gate with the crowd, never entering the premises, and shot more pictures closer to the gate of police and Mafoko Security staff pushing people out of the doorway of the centre and battling to close the gate.”

Holder said a security guard noticed him taking pictures and told him to stop. When the photographer refused, another security guard stepped in and grabbed him. Holder said the guard pulled him and then punched him on the chest.

But Newton Mathosa, manager of Mafoko Security’s Cape Town branch, has denied the allegations. “I was there on the day… I didn’t see or hear anything like this.”

He said it was implausible that one of his security guards would punch someone in that situation as it would only provoke the crowd to attack.

The incident at the centre comes less than a week after Cape Argus photographer David Ritchie was allegedly assaulted by a Home Affairs official who then grabbed his camera and deleted pictures on its memory card.

On Monday, the Cape Argus made contact with the official – who has been identified as Ndivhaleni Mudemeli – who said he was put in a tricky situation and didn’t know how to react.

“Sometimes you don’t know what to do. I didn’t know what would have happened with the photo.”

He had not intended to hurt anyone and was mainly concerned over his own safety, claiming that if a picture was used in the wrong way he could be “shot” or “killed”.

“Sometimes you ask yourself, what have I done… It’s really, really hurting.”

Yusuf Simons, the department’s provincial manager for the Western Cape, said an investigator would look into the alleged assault.

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