Photographer James Oatway defends pictures of murdered Mozambican Emmanuel Sithole


Photographer James Oatway, who captured the chilling images of the assault and murder of Mozambican Emmanuel Sithole in Alexandra at the weekend, says the anger that’s been directed towards him by the public is misplaced.

Sithole was attacked by at least two men, who were armed with a monkey wrench and knife, on an Alexandra street on Saturday morning. Although Oatway and reporter Beauregard Tromp tried to get Sithole to medical assistance, he later succumbed to his wounds. Oatway has come under fire for photographing the incident instead of intervening and trying to prevent the assault.

But Oatway told Radio 702’s John Robbie on Monday morning, that he had done everything he could to help Sithole at the time.

Sunday Times“The one regret that I have was that the first clinic that we took him to, which was just up the road, weren’t equipped to treat him and we did lose some valuable time taking him out of the car there, taking him into the clinic and then the nurses told us that there’s no doctor there. They patched – they put a gauze dressing on his wound – and then we put him back in the car, but that whole process took about 10 minutes,” he said.

Asked for a response to those who believe that such graphic images should not be placed on the front page of newspaper, Oatway said that pictures like these show the “absolute stark reality” of the situation.

“It’s not easy to look at and I understand that some people might be offended by that, but really people have to know what’s happening, and people have to see the brutality and the vulgarity of what’s going on, so I’ve got no regrets that it’s on the front page,” Oatway said.

“I think that people who are angry with me for taking the pictures… should try and direct their anger at the men that are responsible for the attack and not at me,” he added.

You can listen to the full interview here:


  1. This man sat and took pictures while this guy was killed ?!? What is wrong with people?? Not just him but a whole bunch of them stood around while this guy was slaughtered. Shameful!!

    • The unarmed journalist should have jumped in to save a man from armed assailants? He was doing his job and because of his bravery, people can see what actually happened and hopefully that will help to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    • Jenny, go to google and search these words: The life and death of Steven Carter….. or simply google for Steven Carter……

    • The images must get out to the world. Vietnam was just a concept until the grim reality hit the pages of Life Magazine. As a fellow professional photographer, I stand with the bravery of the photographer who risked his own life to share what we all know is a daily aspect of urban violence. People die and people watch. Hiding the news does not make murders or rapes go away. It only encourages impunity. And sticking our heads in the sand won’t inspire change.

  2. I saw Jacob Zuma at Luthuli house condemning the pictures that were published. Well, first and foremost the image didn’t portray all south Africans in the same light, it simply highlighted the gruesomeness of the Xenophobia. It is important for people to see what kind of animals people have turned into, I saw some woman say foreigners take their children’s Jobs, can anyone imagine hiring such thugs. Imagine if you denied them a wage increase. Imagine if you the boss and you white. All of a sudden you a racist who is still implementing apartheid and you should die. Out comes the knife slash slash. You would have to tread on eggs shell in the workplace.

  3. Shocking and so sad for Sithole’s family. Why didn’t they help him. People actually stood around and watched. Wake up South Africa. We will reap what we sow. Let’s stop the violence. To all of us that sleep peacefully at night….this is what is really taking place in our communities. The Bible says that if my people humble themselves and pray.. He will heal our land. We pray that God will continue to heal that family from this brutual act by anothe South African….. Madiba is turning in his grave.

    • People are scared nowadays because the perpetrator will turn to the one trying to help, these things happen daily people are hijacked in front of others & no one will help it is the sad truth of South Africa…I don’t know how much damage must happen before the government take action.

  4. The first time I saw this pictures was on Sunday but since then I haven’t sleep properly, I see his face begging and pleading for mercy but everyone was scared to help this poor man and I realise it’s about time someone get a gun to stop this kind of ruthless people…..So hurt, disturbed and angry but who am I after all, May God give his family a strength to deal with this pain….

  5. It is indeed unacceptable to watch and may be enjoy when one is being attacked brutally as ubuntu does not allow it and totally rejects it, therefore taking picture might not be wrong mara atleast something could have been done to avoid such capturing like trying to save a life of an innocent person, instead from the start of the attack to the causing of death there was capturing of an attack for the sake of publishing and displaying a good reporting to paint us more than bad because of sane individuals who have turned to be bad as animals are somehow better. We correctly need and must know what happened mara we must be carefull that we also do not bend the laws of saving lifes that are disperately in danger, its like someone was waiting or aware that this attack was coming and expected as the pictures seem well taken and very clear. I hope am understood correctly and interpreted in terms of freedom of speech as outlined not critised without facts. I condem this attack and any attack of any human being. God Love us all equally with no conditions.

  6. Inasmuch as I am very sorry about the fateful events of the day….. I would like to equate James Oatway to Kevin Carter …. there are times as a journalist you can’t actually do nothing ….. at least what ever he did has helped to end the madness…… in war there are always some victims

  7. To all who their hearts are total disturbed by what happened to our fellow lovely and harmless “The Late Mr Sithole of Muzambikwi. lets tellk the truth as it is fellow afrikanos , lets not turn to blame the photographer as we all no their job is not to jump between to fighting bulls of any sort but to report and alert the world what is happening where. yes those who where supposed to serve their duties are those bunch of people standing around to watch our fellow brother man from another man dying in the hands of south Africans. and most of this cases you will find that one of his killers is not a south African. lets stand guard at all times to work with police to route out criminals


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