Apr 18, 2011
"People say there is no water in this town. What is this?" giggled Ficksburg's mayor, Mbothoma Maduna, reaching into his office fridge for bottles of Valpré mineral water.
Ficksburg's mayor, Mbothoma Maduna
Maduna's words came minutes before six policemen appeared in the Ficksburg Magistrate's Court, a stone's throw from his office, in connection with the death of Andries Tatane, killed during a protest against the town's crippling water shortages.
On Wednesday, Tatane was allegedly shot twice at close range with rubber bullets, and beaten with batons, by a group of police officers in an attack shown nationwide on SABC TV news.
He and residents of the nearby township of Maqheleng had marched to the Setsoto municipal offices to demand a reliable supply of water and an immediate halt to the daily sewage spills into roads and gardens in the township.
A postmortem examination has found that Tatane died from gunshot wounds. The examiner's report will be completed in a few weeks.
The Times has learned that a number of Independent Complaints Directorate officials were present at the examination by the Bloemfontein district surgeon.
ICD spokesman Moses Dlamini said the investigation into Tatane's death might be finalised by the end of this week.
Investigators interviewed 14 policemen and arrested six of them.
The trial of Olebogeng Mphirime, Tehedi Moeketsie, Jonas Skosana, and Mphonyane Ntaje, who face charges of serious assault, and of Israel Moiloa and Mothusi Magano, charged with murder, was postponed to April 26, when they are expected to apply for bail.
Dlamini said more arrests might follow.
Tatane's widow, Rose, and a relative of one of the six accused almost came to blows in court yesterday.
After the female relative entered the packed courtroom and demanded seats for the accused's family, Rose Tatane shouted: "Shut up! Shut up! Do you not care that we have lost a person? The only thing you care about is sitting space for your people.
"Do you know that we could very well ask the mob [of protestors outside] to attack you when we leave this place?
"I wish I had a gun. I was going to kill them all [the accused] when they come inside!"
A court orderly asked the other woman to leave.
The six policemen came into the court wearing hats, hooded tops and woollen caps drawn over their eyes to prevent them being identified.
They were remanded in custody and will return to court on Tuesday next week for their bail hearing.
As they walked out of the court, Rose Tatane shouted: "These are not police, they are thugs!"
Outside the court, a group of about 500 protesters sang, whistled and waved placards, demanding that immediate action be taken against the alleged killers.
"No bail! No bail! No bail!" they chanted. Some of their placards read: "Protect us, don't kill us", "Rot in jail", "Shoot to kill" and "Cele do your job".
Others waved placards showing newspaper pictures of the police attacking Tatane, blood flowing from his chest, and collapsing.
"Somebody hold us, we will kill these dogs," the crowd shouted, charging towards a group of grim-faced policemen inside the court's yard, safely behind locked gates.
Facing the municipal building, they sang: "We don't have water, sewage is stinking and it's rotten. What have we done? Why are the police killing us? Why did they kill Tatane? He was fighting for our rights."
Tsheliso Mpekoa, a local businessman who organised the march during which Tatane was killed, said the residents will not back down in their calls for Maduna, his senior managers and his councillors to resign.
He said that the municipality was riddled with corruption.
"We are meeting the co-operative governance MEC, Mamiki Qabathe, on Thursday. The municipality should be placed under administration. There should be an investigation and those who have to be dismissed should be dismissed."
But Maduna insisted his administration was clean.
"It's a perception and it's not enough to make conclusions that we are failing to deal with corruption.
"If this office is made aware of such acts we will be able to act. If people see incomplete projects, they conclude it's corruption."Dawood Adam, a senior official of the National Prosecuting Authority, told journalists that the director of the NPA, Menzi Simelane "sends his deepest condolences and calls for calm".