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As the State finished leading the evidence of Monday's witness in the Andries Tatane murder trial, defence lawyer Johann Nel rose slightly from his seat and with a small smile said, “I have no questions.”
Seven public order police officers (POP) stand accused of murder and assault after Tatane was killed during a service delivery protest in Ficksburg two years.
On Monday, the State put a colleague of the seven accused on the stand - a colleague who identified four of the men in the dock in his witness statement after being shown video footage of the incident.
But the defence's simple refusal to cross-examine Kabelo Moroane spoke volumes as to how the State's case had dissolved during the day.
Moroane was part of the POP unit sent to Ficksburg for the Meqheleng Concerned Citizens (MCC) protest on April 13, 2011. He knew the accused. They weren't part of his platoon, but he saw them in the field from time to time.
He too was armed with a rubber bullet-loaded shotgun which he fired when the protesters turned violent, throwing stones at the municipal buildings.
After dispersing the crowd, he returned to the municipal offices where he saw a shirtless, bleeding Tatane. He saw the ambulance arrive and he saw some police officers standing by. But he did not see any of the accused that day.
It was only after being summoned by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) to view video footage of the incident that Moroane named four of the accused in a statement.
“I saw Constable (Mphonyana) Ntaje holding the deceased and beating the deceased with a baton,” said a part of the statement read in court on Monday. “Sergeant (Olebogang) Mphirime and Warrant Officer (Solomon) Moeketsi were also beating the deceased with batons. Constable (Mothusi) Magano was holding a shotgun.”
The statement was dictated to an Ipid officer, but reread and signed by the witness himself at the time.
On Monday, however, Moroane turned.
“I am not satisfied with my statement,” he told the court. Yes, he had named those officers to the Ipid - but he insisted he only ever saw them holding the weapons. He had not identified their actions. And when asked to point out those four officers in court on Monday, Moroane failed to identify a single one of them correctly. Of those officers seen assaulting Tatane in the footage, he couldn't say who they were: they were all wearing helmets.
Moroane said he did not correct his statement at the time because the Ipid officials had threatened him.
“They told us that if we didn't make statements, they would lock us all up,” he said.
Moroane is the second State witness to turn in court.
Last December, Captain Matshidiso Lesomola made similar claims, telling the court that he made his statement to the Ipid under duress and had been threatened by investigators. He too failed to identify some of the accused. Eventually, the State labelled their own witness as “hostile”.
But an Ipid official who assisted in the case said he only ever warned the officers that they had a legal duty to provide any information to the investigators, “or there could be other consequences”.
“If that's considered a threat, then I'm sorry,” said Glen Angus, who at the time of Tatane's death was deputy head of the then-ICD in the Northern Cape.
Obakeng Jood, the Ipid investigator who took down borth Lesimola and Moroane's statements, said there were no threats made and that no corrections or misunderstandings had been brought to his attention when he showed the statements to the men.
The defence implied Jood inserted comments into Moroane's statement, calling the discrepancies “a figment of (Jood's) imagination”.
“I don't know what he testified. I wasn't here this morning,” said Jood. “No one was ever threatened.”