Johnny Anger
Johnny Anger

Arrested development

The mayhem started at 7am last week Wednesday when a bakkie with eight people loaded on the back overturned. It ended 12 hours later with a crash that saw four women — one of whom was pregnant — killed. In between the crashes, there was an armed cash heist. This all took place in what is often described as the “sleepy town of Grahamstown”.

On the Wednesday morning, Grocott’s Mail photographer Stephen Penney reported in our daily diary meeting that he had just returned from the first accident scene. There were no deaths, but a number of people had been taken to hospital. We decided to put a photograph of the accident scene on our front page to serve as a warning for residents to be careful on the roads as the festive season — which has become synonymous with “road carnage” — approaches.

We felt that the message would be especially timely because Rhodes students, who are finishing exams, are climbing into their cars and leaving town. Last November, three students died in an accident shortly after they had written their final exams.

We can write many articles imploring residents to drive carefully, but words just don’t have the same impact as a single photograph of a mangled wreck. We thought this photo might shock our readers and remind them about the consequences of being careless behind the wheel; to remind them that when they drive like maniacs they are not only endangering their own life, they are also playing Russian roulette with the lives of other people.

But 10 hours later, Stephen got a call about the accident in which the four women were killed. Amazingly, in the scope of his duty to record what is happening in Grahamstown for its residents, Stephen was arrested. He spent a few hours in the cells and police are now investigating a charge of “hindering the police”. But Stephen was just doing his job — gathering information to share with Grocott’s Mail readers.

His arrest is an assault on press freedom.

While the police were booking Stephen, the armed cash-heist robbers were on the loose.