Africa, Media

Letter to President Zuma: time to stand up to Libya over Hammerl

By Andy Rice 26 May 2011

On Monday President Zuma will visit Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, in his capacity as an AU representative. The family of photojournalist Anton Hammerl, who was killed in Libya on 5 April, has written an open letter calling on the president to use his influence to have Hammerl brought home to South Africa. After Zuma's failure to mention the photojournalist when he met Gaddafi in early April (when Hammerl's fate was still unknown), insisting that his remains are found is the least he can do this time round; more importantly, it's his job.

26 May 2011

Dear Mr President,

We come to you in this, the darkest hour of our lives.

For 45 days we campaigned to have Anton Hammerl found, freed and brought home from Libya.

In all those weeks we did not imagine that we would now be campaigning to have the remains of our son, our husband, our brother and our father brought home.

All we, as his family, have at our disposal to negotiate with Libya is you and the South African government. Anton was not backed by a big media corporation.

Today we beseech you, as a family man and father, as a South African, but mostly as president of this country, which has good relations with Libya and which is influential on the continent, to help locate Anton’s remains and have them returned home so that he can be put to rest.

We ask you to please be our hearts and to be our voices in appealing to Libya for the whereabouts of Anton’s remains.

It is imperative for us that he is not failed on this level.

We ourselves cannot rest until Anton is given a proper burial in South Africa at a site that will become a place where his children, Aurora (11), Neo (7) and Hiro (15 weeks) can come to pay tribute to their father.

Anton was a proud South African and a photographer with decades of experience covering South Africa. He was a true ambassador for the country in the journalistic profession.

From the moment Anton disappeared in Libya, we have lived an unimaginable nightmare, which became a living one when we heard last Thursday that he had been killed.

Our lives have come to a standstill and even though we now have some idea of what happened to Anton on April 5, our hearts and minds are still in Libya every waking moment, trying to reach out to our son, our husband, our brother and our father, not knowing where his body is.

We ask you to please use your influence on the continent to help finally bring Anton home to us, so that he can rest under the South African skies that he loved so much.

Our nightmare cannot end until he is home.

Yours sincerely,

Penny (wife), Freda (mother), Ludwig (father), Alex (brother), Aurora (daughter), Neo (son), and Hiro (son)

UPDATE: At 21:49 on Thursday, the @SAPresident Twitter account tweeted: “I have received a letter from the family of former photographer Anton Hammerl who was killed in the line of duty.” Two more tweets followed in quick succession: “We extend our heartfelt condolences to Mr Hammerl’s wife Penny Sukhraj & children Aurora, Neo & Hiro as well as his parents Freda & Ludwig.” and “We will do whatever is possible to assist while in Tripoli. The Department of International Relations also continues to work on this matter.” At least now we know that Zuma will raise the matter with Gaddafi. 


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Photo: Penny Sukhraj and Anton Hammerl.

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