News24

Zille: Rein in VIP bullies

2010-03-17 19:02

Cape Town - Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille has asked President Jacob Zuma for an urgent meeting to discuss the issue of so-called "blue light bullies".

"The assault on (702) Eyewitness News photographer Tshepo Lesole by President Zuma's bodyguards is pure power abuse," she said on Wednesday.

Earlier, it was reported that Lesole was grabbed by bodyguards and forced to delete pictures he had taken while Zuma was visiting the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

Zille said it was an affront to human rights in the very week that Human Rights Day was being celebrated.

"Fifty years ago on Sunday, the apartheid police force opened fire on peaceful protesters at Sharpeville, killing at least 69 people. It became a symbol of the brutality of the apartheid regime around the world.

"What we are witnessing in South Africa today is a gradual reversion back to a police state. It is a state where might is right. It is the opposite of the rights-based constitutional democracy that we fought for," Zille said.

The DA leader said the brutality should be stopped in its tracks and Zuma should "rein in his bullies".

Matter for VIP protection services


Last month, when University of Cape Town student Chumani Maxwele was arrested at gunpoint and detained for gesturing at Zuma's convoy, the Presidency said it had nothing to with them.

They said it was a matter to be taken up with the VIP protection services.

"President Zuma cannot hide behind this excuse again. He, and no-one else, is accountable for the behaviour of his bodyguards," Zille said.

He should acknowledge what had happened, take responsibility for it, and do something about it.

Zille said she has written to Zuma requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the matter.

"I want to know what he plans to do to stop this power abuse and I want to share the DA's plans to curtail blue-light bullies in the Western Cape, where we are in government.

"We will not tolerate this power abuse where we govern. We don't see why Jacob Zuma should either," she said.

Apartheid era 'thuggery'

The Professional Journalists' Association (PJA) said the actions of Zuma's bodyguards, in forcing a journalist to delete pictures of the presidential cavalcade, harked back to apartheid era "thuggery and censorship".

"As a member of the press, Lesole is fully entitled to take pictures of the presidential cavalcade (as is any member of the public).

They called on the police, whether they were VIP units or not, to respect the rights of working journalists, and wanted the bodyguards to be held accountable.