The family of missing photographer, Anton Hammerl, has responded to a statement by Minister of International Relations and Co-operation in which she says he is still alive.
Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told The Star “what is very critical is to make sure the he remains safe, but also that we safely bring him back home”.
But his family said in a statement today that while they would like to be “reassured” by her comments that the South African government has proof that he his alive, “after 38 days of not having had any contact with Anton – and in week where significant progress has been made on behalf of the other journalists Anton was captured with – we only have the word of the Libyan officials”.
The statement said: “Despite the assurances of the Libyan government that they have Anton in their custody, they have yet to produce our friend, colleague, husband, father, brother and son.
“If the South African officials have a concrete indication of his whereabouts we call on them to share this with his family – we absolutely need to know that he is well and that we can dare to hope he will come home.
“For us to know this for sure we need proof, not only the word of the people holding him captive, but concrete proof in the form of a phone call or consular access. Where is the proof?”
As news that two US journalists, captured with South African photojournalist Anton Hammerl in Libya, had had intermediary access broke on Tuesday, concern over his fate mounted.
The Global Post reported that James Foley and Clare Gillis had “been allowed a visitor”. According to the Global Post, the intermediary said Gillis and Foley reported that fellow freelancer from Spain, Manu Brabo, was also in the same detention facility, but that they did not know the whereabouts of Hammerl.
Hammerl’s wife, Penny Sukhraj, said on Tuesday: “It is with great concern that 37 days have passed with us having absolutely no contact with Anton.”
She added, “He has not been allowed consular access. All we have, via the South African and Austrian governments – who themselves have received third party assurances – is the word of the Libyans that they are detaining him.
“The Libyans have made good on their promises and allowed intermediate access to James Foley and Clare Gillis, and we rejoice with these families. The two, and Spanish photographer Manu Brabo, have also been allowed calls to family.
“But we are not even sure where Anton is being held. And it is now late in the day – we are terribly distressed around the growing uncertainty of things.
“Why is there still a no-show where Anton is concerned – where is our husband, father, brother and son?
“Why is he being treated differently?
“Why won’t they give us or consular officials access to him?
“These are very real questions that need to be asked right now. We are calling on government to ask these pertinent questions. We also plead with the Libyans to please give us access to Anton.”
Nkoana-Mashabane “said government was in regular contact with the Libyan government” but she would not provide details.