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The public order police officer who said his colleagues didn’t follow the correct procedure when trying to restrain Andries Tatane ran and hid when the stones started flying and is currently suspended from the police service.
Tatane died in April last year after a confrontation with a group of police during a service delivery protest outside the Setsoto municipal offices in Ficksburg.
Seven officers face charges of murder and assault. All have pleaded not guilty to both charges.
Constable Kabelo Pule, who was on duty at the April 13 march where Tatane was killed, previously identified four of the accused in video footage before the Ficksburg Regional Court.
He said the officers used excessive force and could have resorted to pepper spray in place of batons and shotguns. But in a withering cross-examination on Thursday, defence advocate Johann Nel revealed that Pule himself was suspended without pay from the SAPS earlier this year. The reasons for this were not given in court.
And Pule’s previous criticism of his colleagues’ conduct wilted as Nel read back Pule’s own statements during an earlier internal police hearing into Tatane's death.
When the disciplinary board asked Pule how he had reacted to the protesters at the march, he replied: “I just ran, to hide myself from the stones.”
“And then what happened while you were hiding there?” asked the board.
“After the incident of the stones and the stun grenades, when I went out, I just saw a group of police officials battling to arrest a half-naked male.”
Pule was then asked how the police handled the confrontation with Tatane. “Constable (Mphonyana) Ntaje was arresting Mr Tatane, and Tatane was fighting back. The other officers came forward to assist as Tatane was overpowering Ntaje. They were utilising the tonfa (baton) technique.
“From my view it was necessary because the suspect was overpowering Ntaje. The two of them fell on the ground. There was a possibility the suspect could have drawn the firearm of Constable Ntaje while they were on the ground.”
“What if I proposed to you that the use of force exceeded the purpose of arresting Tatane?” asked the board.
“I don’t know, colonel,” Pule responded. “The injuries sustained by Mr Tatane show that the force used exceeded what was required. But when I look at that video, if the others were not there, if Tatane was able to draw Ntaje’s firearm, it would have been the other way round.”
The trial continues.