Town vents fury at brutal police attack
Emotions boiled over in the Free State town of Ficksburg yesterday with residents baying for the blood of the policemen who allegedly killed a protester.
At least three buildings were burned down and streets were blockaded.
The day before, Andries Tatane was beaten and shot dead, allegedly by a group of policemen.
The vicious assault by at least six policemen shocked the nation when it was shown on prime-time TV news bulletins.
Last night, police and thousands of residents of Meqheleng, Tatane's home township, and of neighbouring townships, were still locked in a tense stand-off.
Entry to the area was restricted as violence flared. Residents threw a variety of missiles at the police, including petrol bombs.
What was meant to be a peaceful demonstration against service-delivery failure turned violent on Wednesday after police repeatedly struck Tatane with batons, kicked him and allegedly shot him twice.
Footage of the 33-year-old married father of one collapsing in front of the protesters, and dying about 20 minutes later, has been described as damning evidence of police brutality.
It incited anger that yesterday led to hundreds of protesters setting alight the Ficksburg offices of the departments of home affairs and of public works at midday.
Several schools closed as pupils - some of whom Tatane tutored in maths, science and Afrikaans - joined the protest.
"They killed Andries like a dog and they expect us to listen to them," said one protester.
"Voetsek! Our lives are worth much more than just an apology after their reckless actions. The police are murderers," he said.
Protest-march organiser and chairman of the Meqheleng Concerned Citizens group, Sam Motseare, said: "The community is very angry as a result of what unfolded yesterday."
Motseare described the attack on Tatane as "police brutality typical of the apartheid system".
Tatane's family has demanded answers from the police.
The family yesterday went to the spot where he was killed. Tatane's wife and siblings wept as a priest prayed that his soul would find peace - and for those responsible to be brought to book.
"It has been a very difficult two days," said Tatane's brother, Lefu. "It still seems so unreal. We have to start making funeral arrangements, but it hurts too much."
The family home has been inundated with visitors paying their respects.
A team from the Independent Complaints Directorate was sent to investigate the killing and has been ordered to finalise the case quickly.
Directorate spokesman Moses Dlamini said the postmortem would be conducted today.
"Following the completion of all investigations, we will send our findings to the Director of Public Prosecutions to make a decision. The police will have to decide on what actions to take against any policemen implicated," said Dlamini.
None of the police officers involved in the attack has been suspended, but they have been transferred to other areas.
National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele's office refused to comment, saying Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa had already spoken about the case.
Neither of them has visited Tatane's family.
Mthethwa urge the public to allow the investigation to take its course.
"From where we are, it will be improper to draw conclusions on the incident but [we] remain confident that an impartial investigation will inform us what transpired, who was in the wrong and so forth," he said.
Mthethwa said he was confident that the Independent Complaints Directorate would investigate the incident without delay and "without fear or favour".
But Human Rights Commission chairman Lawrence Mushwana called for tough action against the police officers who had been involved in the attack on Tatane.
"The commission is concerned about what appears to be a trend around the country whereby the human rights of innocent residents are violated by members of the police when they exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to use protest as a form of expression to raise legitimate socio-economic concerns with their elected representatives."
Mushwana said the alleged conduct of the police contradicted section 205 of the constitution, which provides that members of the police have a duty to, among other things, "maintain public order, protect and secure South Africa's inhabitants, and to enforce the law".
Political parties have expressed their outrage.
COPE MP Mluleki George asked Mushwana to investigate whether the police brutality was an infringement of democracy and the dignity of society.
Ficksburg police spokesman Captain Phumelelo Dhlamini said one man was arrested yesterday, and that 45 had been arrested on Wednesday but had been released on warnings yesterday.
Motseare said the community wanted the provincial authorities to remove mayor Mbothoma Maduna and his officials because they had "failed at their job" and failed to deliver on their promises to the people who elected them.
Residents had asked that the municipality be placed under provincial administration, he said.
They had asked for a meeting today with Mamiki Qabathe, MEC for co-operative governance, traditional affairs and human settlements. The meeting was cancelled because of the unrest.