Ficksburg cops not suspended, say police

The six policemen who allegedly beat a man to death during a protest in Ficksburg are still working but have been sent to other areas, Free State police said on Thursday evening.

“No, they have not been suspended yet,” Colonel Sam Makhele said.

“Only once investigations are done, a decision will be taken … but they have not been deployed to the same area.”

Police reinforcements were sent to the Meqheleng township after riots erupted after midday on Thursday.

Two municipal buildings on different streets were set alight at around 12.45pm and firefighters only managed to put them out by late afternoon.

There were no reports of injuries or fatalities, local police spokesperson Captain Phumelelo Dlamini said.

A case of arson was opened, but no arrests made.

No arrests had been made yet in connection with the murder of Andries Tatane, (33) a teacher who was his family’s breadwinner and had one child.

Forty-five people arrested for public violence on Wednesday appeared in the Ficksburg Magistrate’s Court, where about 200 people had converged.

Release the group
They sang and toyi-toyied, demanding the release of the group.

Leading the march, Lereko Manako, of the Concerned Citizens of Meqheleng group, said they would not leave until their members were freed. By 4pm, the 45 were released on a warning and told to reappear on May 24.

Manako claimed scores of residents were injured in Wednesday’s protest when police shot at them.

“People were trampled and hurt in the commotion and we don’t even know if it was live ammunition or rubber bullets.”

Manako said he was mandated to speak on behalf of the Tatane family.

“The family is really, really sad and distraught and it’s a terrible situation.

“They are angry and we are giving them time to now sort out funeral arrangements.”

Human Rights Commission chairperson advocate Lawrence Mushwana said it was concerned about what appeared to be a trend of police violating the rights of people exercising their constitutional rights.

He said there had been similar reports of police brutality during recent service delivery protests in Ermelo, Mpumalanga.

The Independent Complaints Directorate had sent a team of investigators to Ficksburg.

“They will investigate and take statements from witnesses and police … then an identity parade will be carried out,” ICD spokesperson Moses Dlamini said.

Firearms would be sent for ballistic testing. A report would be compiled and sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a decision on whether to prosecute.

Earlier, the ANC said it wanted Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to probe the matter and institute an “immediate commission of inquiry”. The party also expressed concern about the airing of the “shocking and disturbing images” of the killing on SABC television news.

The party called on the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa to investigate whether the broadcaster had overstepped its mandate.

Police allegedly fired rubber bullets into Tatane’s chest and beat him with batons during a service delivery protest in the Meqheleng township.

He was allegedly attacked by at least six policemen simultaneously, according to media reports. He was seen holding his hand against his chest after the assault and collapsed about 20 minutes later. He died before an ambulance arrived. — Sapa

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