Protesters allegedly in support of embattled eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede shut down operations at the Durban City Hall and municipal buildings on Thursday. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA)

Durban - Political parties are demanding that the police be held accountable for the detention of journalists during the Zandile Gumede protest outside the Durban City Hall on Thursday. 

Sihle Mavuso, who works for Independent Media’s political bureau, was assaulted and apprehended by Durban Metro Police, while covering a protest at the Durban City Hall with fellow journalist Des Erasmus. 

Mavuso was detained for a short while by police and then released. 

Erasmus video recorded the incident.

Over the weekend, Piet Rampedi and Mzilikazi wa Africa from Independent Media’s investigative unit, lodged harassment and intimidation charges after being followed by unknown vehicles and individuals. Rampedi took photographs of the cars, which followed them.

Independent Media is gravely concerned by the increase in the harassment of journalists in South Africa.  For democracy to thrive, journalists must be able to operate without the fear of harassment, intimidation and threats of violence.

Independent Media condemns, in the strongest terms, the harassment, intimidation and attacks on some of its journalists over the past few days.

Zwakele Mncwango MPL, Democratic Alliance KwaZulu-Natal leader said his party will be writing to the KZN Police Commissioner, Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, Metro Police Head- Steven Middleton, and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID)  asking for the reasons behind the manhandling of journalists. 

"It is a sad day in South Africa where our police, who are meant to provide a service of protecting citizens, are now trampling media freedom. The journalists were manhandled and some arrested for covering the police’s behaviour during a protest this morning. It is alleged that chaos broke out when the police asked journalists to delete the footage they took when the police were manhandling the protesters. The journalists then refused and were subjected to torture and arrest,"Mncwango said.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) said police must arrest criminals and not journalist.

The IFP further call upon the police authorities to institute special training sessions for police officers on non-coercive methods when dealing public violence.

Blessed Gwala MPL,IFP KZN Provincial Spokesperson on Community Safety and Liaison said police should apply the same energy used in arresting journalists in fighting criminals who are terrorising and killing people.

"Journalists are not criminals; they are not armed and therefore must be allowed to do their work of reporting news freely and without intimidation. It is senseless for police to attack people who are only “armed” with pen, paper and a camera," he said.

"As the IFP we are against police brutality. The use of torture by the South African police has become almost endemic. It is not the duty of office of any state authority to authorize, approve, engage in or in any other way cause the torture of a citizen,"Gwala added.

"Every person has the right, peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions to public authorities. This excessive use of force to quell violence or disperse protesters does not only violate South African laws but also international guidelines on the use of force by law enforcement officials,"Gwala stated. 

He said that police is very swift and hell bent on punishing community members sometimes disguised in peaceful demonstrators. 

"The irony is that, when it comes to disciplining police officers who deliberately injure or kill these protesters, the same law suddenly is taken ill and develops very cold feet. The police officers are a crucial part of the justice machinery and unfortunately at present, an abusive part. Indeed, there is a responsibility on the government to protect its citizens and to do otherwise is to abdicate the legitimate expectations of its citizens,"Gwala added.

The IFP calls on the KZN MEC of Community Safety and Liaison, Mxolisi Kaunda to investigate the brutality against the protesters and journalists in Durban and to discipline immediately all officers found to have used force inappropriately. 

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