Crowds gather at Ficksburg court

2011-04-18 09:01

A crowd gathered outside the Ficksburg Magistrates Court, in the Free State, today, for the appearance of six policemen accused of killing protester Andries Tatane last week.

A heavy police contingent kept watch as the court building’s gates were closed to prevent the noisy onlookers from entering the premises.

A court orderly had to go outside to ask them to quieten down and stop their singing and talking when the day’s court proceedings started.

In a statement handed to journalists, the Meqheleng Concerned Citizens “pleaded” with the court not to grant bail to the six police officers.

“We are pleading with the entire world to join us in our call that the... six must not get bail,” the group wrote.

“We believe that their release on bail will further fuel the people’s anger and derail the course of negotiations.

“We count on the support and prayers of the nation at large. The blood of this fallen hero is enough.”

The group said Tatane was “defenceless and unarmed” when he was killed.

Although the case was expected to start at 11am, Tatane’s wife and family were seated in the front row of the court room by 9.30am.

Earlier, a police vehicle transporting a water cannon drove through the streets of Ficksburg.

Tatane was allegedly killed by a group of policemen on Wednesday after challenging them to spray him with the water cannon.

The police officers allegedly fired rubber bullets at Tatane and beat him during a peaceful service delivery protest on Wednesday.

SABC television footage showed a group of policemen beating Tatane with batons, after which he was seen holding his chest and looking down at blood on his chest.

He collapsed and died 20 minutes later.

Beeld newspaper reported today that two rubber bullets were removed from his body during a post mortem.

The Afrikaans daily reported that African National Congress secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said at the weekend that there was a need to intervene and change a “concerning culture” growing in the police force.

He said the police were not above the law and that incidents such as the Ficksburg killing should not happen in a democracy.

Mantashe said the ANC welcomed the investigation into Tatane’s death.

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.

The protesters have given local government authorities until Thursday to meet their demands.

The six policemen were arrested on Saturday.

Four of them face charges of assault and two others face murder charges, the Independent Complaints Directorate said at the weekend.?

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