Govt slammed over Hammerl news
Johannesburg - 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 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," DA leader Helen Zille said.
"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'."
The minister was expected to address the media on the matter in Pretoria on Friday morning.
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 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".
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 spokesperson Clayson Monyela denied the report saying; "That issue of the minister's quote was not captured correctly."
Last month well known photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed after coming under fire in the besieged Libyan town of Misrata.