Journos held outside Zuma's house

2010-03-18 10:41

Johannesburg - Guards outside President Jacob Zuma's house in Forest Town, Johannesburg, on Wednesday held a photographer and a cub reporter from the Mail & Guardian in their own car in front of the house.

This followed only a day after presidential guards roughed up Tshepo Lesole, an Eyewitness News journalist from Talk Radio 702, at the Chris Hani-Baragwanath hospital in Soweto and forced him to erase his footage.

According to Nic Dawes, the editor of the Mail & Guardian, Delwyn Verasamy, the photographer, and Lionel Faull, had gone to take pictures of Zuma's house at about 10:00.

Guards and a police officer came up to them and held them for about 40 minutes in their car.

Not illegal

The journalists called Dawes and he drove over. He then asked the guards why they were holding Verasamy and Faull, to which they said they were not being held but they could not go either.

Dawes then said: "If they are not under arrest, we are going," and he left with his staff.

"To take pictures in a public road is not illegal. They are journalists doing their job."

Dawes said it could have been viewed as an isolated incident if it had not been for the "bizarre" arrest of Chumani Maxwele, the Cape Town student, who last month allegedly showed his middle finger to President Jacob Zuma, as well as Tuesday's incident at the Chris Hani-Baragwanath hospital.

"In that context, it is worrying."

Felix Dlangamandla, Beeld's photographer who was also at the hospital, saw how guards yelled at Lesole and pulled him about by his shirt after he took pictures of Zuma's motorcade.

The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) said in a statement that the Eyewitness News reporter had been harassed a few weeks after Sanef, the minister and deputy minister of police and the national police chief had met to discuss the harassment of journalists by police.

Police then reassured Sanef that officers would not keep journalists from doing their jobs.

Presidency requests report

Vincent Magwenya, Zuma's spokesperson, on Wednesday again used the excuse that the protection of the president was the police's responsibility and not the presidency's.

The presidency was however worried about "what appeared to be increasing tension between the police and the media", and had requested a report about the incidents.

They would apparently meet with police "to look at what we can do to improve the relationship between the media and those who protect the president".

DA leader Helen Zille said the assault of Lesola by Zuma's guards was an abuse of power. She said only Zuma, and no-one else, was responsible for the behaviour by his bodyguards.

National police spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Lindela Mashigo, was not available for comment by late Thursday.