Johannesburg - A clampdown by authorities on illegal immigrants turned ugly for a journalist covering the event when he became a target himself.
Sapa reporter Jonisayi Maromo said he and other members of the media had been invited to accompany police, the SA Revenue Service and home affairs officials on a raid in the Pretoria area on Thursday.
“They were having this sting operation to clamp down on illegal immigration and the illegal operation of businesses,” Maromo recounted.
He accompanied the group to Sunnyside and followed officials as they arrested suspected illegal immigrants.
It was during one such arrest when Maromo found himself under harsh questioning by a home affairs official.
The woman official had grabbed a suspected illegal by the belt before turning to Maromo and asking: “And you? Where are your papers?”
Maromo said: “I told her that I had my documents with me, it's in my backpack. I also told her that I was a journalist covering the operation and I produced my press card.”
The woman looked at his press card and called for another official to take Maromo away.
Maromo said he was not given the opportunity to get his passport from his backpack to prove that he was legal.
“I told the official that I had the passport with me. At least, they should have had the decency to let me get it out Ä just as a human being,” Maromo said.
Instead, Maromo was marched down the street in view of his fellow-journalists to a police bakkie.
“I was humiliated in front of my colleagues and passers-by alike. I had not committed any crime,” Maromo said.
Maromo said he was preparing to get into the bakkie when a home affairs official who knew him intervened.
“They asked to see my documents. Then the official just said, 'okay, you can go'.”
Maromo continued to cover the raid and filed his report as usual.
He said the woman who initially questioned him later apologised.
Home affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa could not be reached for comment. - Sapa