Tatane witnesses face perjury charges

2013-04-03 16:03

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Two witnesses, for the state, who changed their initial statements in the trial of Free State protester Andries Tatane, face perjury charges if an investigation by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) finds evidence that witnesses deliberately changed their statements to weaken the case.

Acting deputy national director of public prosecutions Thoko Majokweni announced that the NPA would not be appealing against the verdict of the court, which found insufficient evidence to prove that policemen were responsible for the murder of Tatane.

In an unusual move, the NPA was likely to ask the SA Police Service (SAPS) to investigate the perjury charges instead of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, which investigates crimes committed by police officers.

The two witnesses are policemen who initially said they knew who, among their colleagues, had been responsible for Tatane’s murder.

This will mean that the SAPS will investigate its members for allegedly lying to protect other police officers charged with murder.

Majokweni said the decision not to appeal against the verdict was based on the view that it was “highly unlikely” that a different court would find differently in the matter.

She said the outcome of the case had left prosecutors not only in shock but “deeply disappointed”.

The NPA blamed the witnesses for the unsuccessful prosecution because the witnesses recanted their statements.

“The NPA would have hoped for an outcome that would not leave such deep disappointment and pain, not only to the family, but to the entire nation who witnessed the brutal demise of Mr Andries Tatane during a service-delivery protest in a democratic South Africa,” said Majokweni.

She said only two of the three witnesses for the state faced these charges.

The NPA experienced pretrial challenges in that the prosecution could only present a few witnesses whose statements would withstand the scrutiny of the court.

The NPA had 35 witness statements, of which nine were made by members of the public and 19 by police officers. But, of the 19 police witnesses, only six could positively identify the accused when they were shown the video footage that was admitted into evidence.

Majokweni said that, before the trial, prosecutors decided to chop the list of witnesses to testify to only three, because they “had not deviated completely from their original statements”.

“During the course of the trial, two of the three remaining witnesses denied the content of their original statements, especially in so far as it related to the identity of the accused. The third witness had difficulties in explaining the contradictions between his evidence in chief and the evidence he had given during the disciplinary hearing against the police officers,” said Majokweni, recounting how the state’s case had crumbled.

She said the investigation would determine whether there was any collusion or conspiracy to change statements which made the court find that the witnesses were “evasive, not credible and unreliable”.

Tatane was killed in 2011 during a service-delivery protest in Ficksburg.

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