‘He was bare chested and completely defenceless’

2011-04-14 10:33

The death of Congress of the People (Cope) member Andries Tatane in a scuffle with police during a protest march in Ficksburg would be a test for democracy in South Africa, the party’s leader Mosiuoa Lekota said today.

Tatane (33) was beaten to death, allegedly by the police, during a service delivery protest in the eastern Free State town yesterday.

“The incident in Ficksburg yesterday was probably the beginning of a test for democracy in this country,” said Lekota.

The Cope leader said many communities lacked services from day to day and that it would be unavoidable that there would be demands, in the form of protest marches, for better services.

Lekota said that if the government was going to suppress these protests in the way it acted in Ficksburg, “then South Africa could kiss democracy goodbye”.

Lekota said the protest march was organised by the community, but that Tatane was a member of Cope.

“He went along. The march was organised by a community concerned group, but he was a prominent Cope member in the community.”

Lekota said Tatane ran classes for pupils who did not have not good marks in maths, helping them to proceed to possible university level.

The Cope leader expressed his sympathy with the family of Tatane and the other 45 community members arrested, hoping they “would join their families soon”.

Lekota said an important question was whether the state would use public order police to suppress public protest such as that at Ficksburg.

From what he saw on television, it appeared that Tatane was subjected to a “very intense assault” by about 10 police officers, said Lekota.

He said Tatane was not armed. “He was bare chested and was completely defenceless.”

The incident did not seem to be a mistake, but rather a pre-considered act.

Lekota said 10 police officers could have easily have taken him and put him in a police van, because none of their lives were in danger. “Certainly, not from him.”

He hoped the Ficksburg incident was not a message from “powers” in the country to all communities which wanted to complain about services.

He said political, church, business and civic leaders should condemn the incident.

“If they kept quiet we as citizens may be allowing a trend to suffocate democracy for ever,” said Lekota.

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