Zuma’s bodyguards act with ‘impunity’

President Jacob Zuma's protection unit is under fire after apparently assaulting a journalist on Monday, and shoving photographers, kicking a media camera and intimidating motorists at the international friendly between South Africa and Spain on Tuesday. 

Eyewitness News (EWN) journalist Reinart Toerien opened a case of common assault against Zuma's VIP unit on Monday after one of the security guards leaned out of his vehicle window on the road outside Nelson Mandela's Houghton home to knock Toerien's camera out of his hand, slapping him and telling him to "voetsek".

EWN editor-in-chief Katy Katopodis has condemned the conduct, saying it is shocking that Zuma's security detail appears to believe they can act with such "impunity".

The South African National Editors' Forum has condemned the alleged assault.

"Sanef expects civil servants, and especially those charged with accompanying the president on public activities, to respect the rights and duties of the media and treat journalists with respect," it said on Thursday.

Sanef supports Katopodis's call for a full investigation and disciplinary action.

"Sanef also approves of the action of Toerien in laying criminal charges against the VIP protection unit member at the Norwood police station … Toerien recorded the incident on video and the vehicle registration number is clearly visible," the forum said.

There have been a number of attacks on journalists by officials and citizens in recent months, according to Sanef. 

Bad sports
Members of the media and motorists were subjected to further aggressive behaviour from Zuma's bodyguards at the international friendly football match between Bafana Bafana and Spain at FNB Stadium on Tuesday.

A photographer waiting to photograph Zuma and other dignitaries on the podium, from behind the rope demarcating the cordoned off media area, had his camera shoved out of the way by one of the president's protectors when he leaned over the rope to take photographs. Other photographers experienced similar behaviour from the bodyguard, who then kicked the camera of a photographer sitting on the ground.

Spectators trying to leave the stadium after the game experienced similar aggression from the presidential protection unit.

One motorist told the Star that members of the presidential security detail were banging on cars stuck in the traffic jam outside the stadium, telling the drivers to move even though there was nowhere for them to go, and "about seven of them had pulled out their R5s [assault rifles] even though there was no fighting going on". – Additional reporting by Sapa

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