WITH the memory of their beating by a "blood-thirsty" mob still fresh
in their memory, British and South African journalists, Jim Wickens and
Bart Smithers, afterwards related the story of their assault and arrest
at Cape Cross to The Namibian, writes Adam Hartman.
"Two bakkies were suddenly chasing us while we were busy filming the cull and we were on the verge of being knocked over. Then the sealers came to us wielding clubs," Wickens told The Namibian an hour before they appeared in the Swakopmund Magistrate's Court on Friday a week ago on a charge of contravening the Marine Resources Act.
The men said their camera equipment, with which they were conducting undercover filming of the seal cull at Cape Cross for British environmental organisation Ecostorm, were ripped from them and a microphone and lens were damaged in the process.
Wickens said he was punched several times and fell down, and was then kicked and threatened with a clubbing. "About five men came to me with their clubs still dripping with blood from the seals they had just clubbed to death," he said. "Ours would just be another mammal skull cracked."
According to the journalists, their assault happened in front of a man who claimed to be an official of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. "His name was Claudius or something. He did not do a thing to intervene," said Smithers.
They said they attempted to calm the mob down while waiting for the Police to arrive. According to the two journalists, the fisheries official said he, along with the clubbers, were the only authority in the area. Wickens then tried calling from his mobile, but a "young, short and stocky white man" ripped the phone from his hand and only handed him back the keypad.
According to them, their equipment was "strewn all over the place" when the Police eventually arrived with a park warden. The two journalists were then loaded into a bakkie and accompanied by the fisheries official and Police to Henties Bay. Another bakkie apparently followed them.
"Suddenly a third bakkie appeared out of nowhere and swerved in front of our vehicles. We stopped and an older white man first had a word with the officials before he came to the back where we were, opened the window and punched me in the face, saying 'I hope they fuck you up'," said Wickens. They allege the man could have been one of the seal concession holders.
The two journalists were found guilty of trespassing in a marine protected area and paid a fine of N$5 000 each before being released.
They left the country that weekend.
Click here to read the full report, posted on allafrica.com.