'Witness' reporter manhandled and threatened by taxi drivers

2018-01-26 14:23
An protester armed with a steel pipe hangs out of a taxi in the CBD on Thursday.

An protester armed with a steel pipe hangs out of a taxi in the CBD on Thursday. (Supplied)

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WATCH: Moments leading up to car being torched in #PmbTaxiStrike

2018-01-26 10:56

Watch as protesters get ready to torch a vehicle on Langalibalele Street in Pietermaritzburg, during a strike by minibus taxi drivers. WATCH

A reporter for The Witness was manhandled by taxi drivers on Thursday and others faced attempts to intimidate them.

Reporter Nokuthula Khanyile was shoved to the ground by a large group of taxi drivers who blocked the road next to the Imbali Crossing on Moses Mabhida Road.

“When I arrived at the protest my intention was to speak to the taxi drivers to find out what the issue was, and leave,” said Khanyile.

After conducting interviews, she was pushed around and sworn at by taxi drivers when she tried to take a photograph. “I took out my phone when I was leaving to take a photograph of the protesters and they just went nuts.

“A large group carrying sticks descended upon me and grabbed and swore at me.

“They were gesturing and shouting at me ... accusing me of trying to take pictures of them so the police could easily identify them.

“Others were saying things I couldn’t quite make out amid all the noise and confusion,” said Khanyile.

When she realised that the angry crowd might attack her, she pleaded with them to let her go. “While they were pulling and pushing me I started screaming. Luckily, a motorist who was also stuck in the mayhem interceded and tried to extract me ... he prevented one man who was particularly aggressive from reaching me,” she said.

Before the motorist came to her rescue, Khanyile said the aggressive individual got close enough to lash out at her with a violent push.

“I lost my balance and fell. If he had come close enough to me he was going to slap me. He was swearing at me and grabbing at me trying to stop me from walking away from the crowd.”

Khanyile said after she was rescued, a group of women who had seen the incident escorted her to where she was parked nearby. “I’m very grateful to the motorist who saved me. It was a very scary experience and I’m glad I managed to escape unharmed.”

Protesters force reporters to delete video

In another incident, Witness reporters Nompilo Kunene and Kerushun Pillay were confronted at the intersection of Church and Boshoff streets.

Kunene had been recording a video of a group of what appeared to be security personnel.

Members of that team began shouting at the reporters, demanding that they stop recording.

Eventually, a few of them approached the vehicle on the driver’s side, and removed the key from the ignition and demanded that Kunene delete the video from her cellphone.

One member reached in and tried to grab the phone. On the passenger’s side, protesting taxi operators began banging on the window also demanding the video be deleted.

Kunene said the protesters threatened her, telling her they would beat her up.

The video was deleted, and the reporters were allowed to drive away.

All three said they intended reporting the incidents to the police and opening cases.

Commenting on the incidents, South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase said: “At Sanef we are appalled to hear of the attack, specifically on a woman journalist, in the taxi violence in KwaZulu-Natal.

“It is important that members of the public respect the work of journalists.

“The work they do is in the public’s interest. They have the right to do their work freely without fear or favour and we cannot tolerate incidents where they feel intimidated or threatened,” said Mahlase.

“Journalists risk their lives every day covering the many violent protests in South Africa [and are] committed to telling the South African story and we expect members of the public in return to allow them to do their work.

“We urge journalists to report such incidents so we can also check if the police will investigate.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  media  |  protests

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