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State fails in Tatane-killing court hearing, claims lawyer

Sapa

The state had failed as prosecuting body in the trial of seven policemen accused of killing Ficksburg protester Andries Tatane.

Andries Tatane's widow Rose Tatane is comforted by her sister Madieketseng Nthodi at the Ficksburg courthouse. (Gallo)

This according to their lawyer on Tuesday.

The seven would bring an application against the state for unnecessarily delaying the case, if it did not mend its ways, Johann Nel told the Ficksburg Regional Court.

"We would ask for an investigation into the failure by the state as a prosecuting body."

The officers individually face murder or assault charges after local resident Tatane was killed, allegedly by police using rubber bullets, during a local service delivery protest in April last year.

Nel said the trial was set down for three days from Monday, but the court only sat for about three hours before the state asked for a postponement to next year.

"The application would follow if the state showed any failure to again present any witnesses."

'Hostile' witness
This week it was anticipated that two state witnesses would be called in the trial of the men. Only one state witness was called.

Earlier, magistrate Hein van Niekerk wanted to hear from the state why Tuesday's sitting started late, putting it on record that he was only called for the hearing at 9.55am.

Asking for the postponement to March next year, prosecutor Sello Mathloko said the state intended calling only the investigating officer as a possible last witness.

Before the lunch break, the prosecution stopped short of declaring the state's  only witness for this week hostile.

Mathloko was leading evidence by Captain Matshidiso Lesomola. He was deployed as an observer to the protest march in Ficksburg.

A frustrated Mathloko surprised Van Niekerk when he asked to make an application to declare the witness hostile.

"The state was not aware of the hostility of the witness," said Mathloko.

"You want to discredit your own witness?" asked Van Niekerk, indicating he did not perceive the witness as hostile.

Conflicting statements
Mathloko said Lesomola's testimony was not the same as his statement to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) a few days after the shooting.

Mathloko said Lesomola had read through his statement on Monday, but did not indicate that it contained discrepancies, as he claimed on Tuesday.

Lesomola testified he had not willingly made his statement to Ipid. He said after watching a video of the protest two investigators threatened him.

Lesomola said he reported the threats to his senior officer. Asked to identify some of the accused in a police video, Lesomola was unable to do so.

He nevertheless identified three senior police officers, colonels, who were present on the scene on the day of the shooting.

During a short cross-examination by Nel, Lesomola testified that Tatane was aggressive during his arrest. Van Niekerk postponed the trial to March 4 2013. – Sapa

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