6 policemen held for protester's death
Johannesburg - Six policemen have been arrested in connection with the killing of Andries Tatane who was beaten to death during a service delivery protest in Ficksburg, the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) said on Sunday.
The six men, arrested on Saturday, were from the public order police unit in Bloemfontein, ICD spokesperson Moses Dlamini said.
Four of the men were being charged with assault and two with murder. ICD executive director Francois Beukman told SABC news on Sunday that this type of police brutality could not be tolerated.
Police allegedly fired rubber bullets into Tatane's chest and then beat him with batons on Thursday.
Tatane 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. The police confirmed on Wednesday that a man had been killed during the protest.
The residents of Meqheleng township were marching to the Ficksburg municipal offices to hand over a memorandum relating to service delivery issues when the incident took place.
Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille
on Sunday said the tragic events in Ficksburg would one day be a watershed in South Africa's history.
"The image of Andries Tatane being beaten and shot by the police is seared into our consciences.
"He committed no crime. All he did was protest against the collapse of service delivery in his town."
Zille said the right to peaceful protest was protected by the constitution, so the police should have been protecting his rights, not following their "shoot-to-kill" orders.
The Young Communist League of South Africa welcomed the arrest of six policemen.
"This swift arrest...shows the determination of the ICD to ensure that this case is ultimately resolved," spokesperson Mafika Mndebele said in a statement.
Abuse of power
"The murder of Tatane has opened in the eyes of many South Africans the abuse of power and authority by the police, and a call for sober discussions on whether the 'licence to kill' that has been encouraged by seniors in our police system has not turned our police into a violent and trigger happy machinery."
The Congress of the People on Sunday said the six policemen were only arrested once activists and the public pressurised Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa
to take action.
"This shows that the more active citizens are, the less excess will be tolerated in the government," spokesperson Philip Dexter said in a statement.
"In a society which is plagued by rampant corruption, renegade civil servants, including some SAPS members, citizen action defends democracy and the constitution."
Dexter said Tatane's death must not be in vain.