SA govt vows to find Hammerl’s body

The government will do everything in its power to repatriate the body of South African photojournalist Anton Hammerl, the department of international relations and cooperation said on Sunday.

Local authorities were working closely with the Austrian government to find his body, said spokesperson Clayson Monyela.

“The Austrian and South African government want him to get a decent burial, despite the difficulties and challenges,” he told the South African Press Association (Sapa).

Family friend Bronwyn Friedlander said Hammerl’s wife Penny Sukhraj was thankful for the support.

“It’s very early days. Everything is still very raw but we have had incredible support.” she told Sapa in a telephone interview.

“Everyone has rallied around here in London and the family wants to thank everyone for the love and good wishes.”

South Africa and Austria were in talks with Libyan authorities and the Transitional National Council.

The council represents anti-Muammar Gaddafi rebels in Libya.

According to its website: “The aim of the Transitional National Council is to steer Libya during the interim period that will come after its complete liberation and the destruction of [Muammar] Gaddafi’s oppressive regime”.

Independent Democrats parliamentary leader Joe Mcgluwa said on Saturday that the international relations ministry “had some explaining to do”.

“There are many unanswered questions surrounding the way in which both the Libyan and South African authorities handled this matter, and both President [Jacob] Zuma and the department of international relations have some explaining to do.”

He said despite Zuma recently boasting about his “brotherly” relationship with Gaddafi, the deception and callousness of his Libyan counterpart’s regime should be challenged.

“The South African government claims that Libyan authorities misled them about Mr Hammerl’s fate for the past six weeks.

“The fact remains that no proof of life was obtained and the nonchalance of the Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane in addressing the issue … reflects poorly on the competency and will of her department,” Mcgluwa charged.

On Friday, Nkoana-Mashabane accused the Libyan government of lying about the fate of Hammerl.

“We kept getting reassured at the highest level that he was alive until his colleagues were released and shared the information,” she said.

American journalists Clare Morgana Gillis and James Foley, and Spanish photographer Manuel Brabu, were with Hammerl when forces loyal to Gaddafi shot at them in a desert near Brega on April 5.

They had been following rebel forces in their own car at the time but the rebels fled, leaving the four behind.

Hammerl was hit in the stomach and the three others were taken captive.

Nkoana-Mashabane said the journalists did not mention Hammerl’s death earlier as they feared for their safety.

Foley had said Hammerl could not have survived without medical attention. – Sapa

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