Newsmaker 2011: Tatane died for a noble cause

2011-12-23 11:18

Andries Tatane was unknown beyond the borders of his hometown Ficksburg before April 13.

That evening, Tatane’s name featured on the lips of millions of South Africans as images of him being brutally assaulted, shot and killed by police officers were beamed on national TV.

Tatane (33) was a community activist and teacher in Ficksburg, a township of Meqheleng, near the Lesotho border. He dabbled in politics, first as member of the governing ANC until 2008 before joining Cope, the ANC breakaway party.

Like many residents of Meqheleng, unhappy with the slow pace of service delivery, he joined the Meqheleng Concerned Citizens (MCC), a community organisation which challenged the Setsoto local municipality’s inept administration.

Already popular among the township’s youth through his independent mathematics tutoring, he became a leading voice in the MCC.

Tatane was also a journalist and publisher of a community newspaper and had a slot on Setsoto community radio station.

Prior to the local government elections in May, Tatane registered to stand as an independent candidate.

His grief-stricken wife Rose said after his death: “I have always warned him to stay away from politics, because one day it would lead to trouble.”

On April 13, Tatane left home to join about 4 000 other residents to march on the headquarters of the local municipality.

Things turned nasty when police started firing at the crowd with teargas and water cannons, to which a bare-breasted Tatane protested by raising his arms in surrender.

A group of policemen descended on him with batons and another fired two rubber bullets at the activist, who collapsed and died about 20 minutes later.

His death caused a national outcry which led to the arrest of eight police officers. The officers are currently out on bail and are set to go on trial next year for murder.

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