Shocking images as police shown beating defenceless protester to death
Apr 13, 2011 10:19 PM | By CHANDRE PRINCE, SIPHO MASONDO and HARRIET MCLEA
Shocking images of police brutality were broadcast to the nation on television yesterday – they showed an unarmed man being beaten to death by a mob of policemen.
Pictures of the attack on the 33-year-old man by at least six policemen simultaneously, during a service delivery protest at Setsoto, in Ficksburg, eastern Free State, were shown on all SABC news bulletins last night.
The visuals show how the armed policemen cornered Andries Tatane, striking him with their batons and kicking him in an assault that lasted for a few minutes.
Tatane, from Masaleng township, Ficksburg, is seen holding his hand against his chest after the assault. He collapsed about 20 minutes later and died before an ambulance arrived.
As well as being beaten, he had been shot twice.
Last night Tatane’s brother, Lefu Tatane, told The Times of the “shocking murder” of his elder brother.
“We are very angry. I can’t even describe it. He was no danger to the police or anyone. Why did they have to kill him?” said Lefu.
Tatane was part of a group of about 4000 protesters who marched to the Setsoto municipal offices yesterday morning demanding a response to a memorandum of demands they had sent to the mayor, Mbothoma Maduna, and the municipal manager, Bafana Mthembu.
The people of Setsoto, like many others across the country, are fed-up with the lack of services in their area and demanded that Maduna and Mthembu speed up their provision.
According to Lefu, the demonstration had been peaceful until a rock was thrown into the crowd of protesters.
Police reinforcements were called in and, according to at least two eyewitnesses, chaos erupted when police water cannon were used against the protesters.
One eyewitness said that Tatane had jumped in front of an elderly man who was being sprayed by the water cannon.
“The only thing he did was to ask that they not spray the old man and then all hell broke loose. The next minute, police were all over Tatane. He was defenceless.”
According to his brother, Tatane sustained two bullet wounds, one to the chest and one in the back.
But the police claim that they were trying to arrest Tatane. They said they did not know who shot him.
Police spokesman Captain Phumelelo Dlamini said: “They were trying to arrest him. While he was being arrested, there was a gun shot so we don’t know who shot him but we’re going to investigate.”
Police also shot at the crowd, which, after witnessing the beating of Tatane, turned violent.
A number of witnesses said it was the police that shot Tatane.
Last night, Lefu said his brother’s wife was too distraught to talk and the family was taking her for medical treatment.
Tatane is also survived by a three-year-old child.
Maduna, the mayor of Setsoto, said: “It’s really unfortunate to have a person dying as a result [of the protests]. We regret it . it was not supposed to have happened. We will contribute towards the burial and show that we care.”
Free State Premier Ace Magashule said: “We will sit down and talk and work together [with the people of Setsoto]. We are sending condolences to the family.
Lefu said officials of the Independant Complaints Directorate visited the family home at about 3pm yesterday and would return today.
The ANC last night condemned the killing and called on Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to set up a commission of inquiry
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said the police responsible for the killing should be brought to book.
“We are shocked and disgusted by what we saw on television. No reason can be raised about the behaviour of the police.
“Our people have a constitutional right to protest and the action by the police is reminiscent of the apartheid police force,” Mthembu said.
David Bruce, senior a researcher at The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, said that there had been an increase in the number of people killed by the police in recent years.
The peak year was 2008-2009.
ICD statistics show a steady increase in complaints of serious non-fatal police violence, assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm and attempted murder.