Meqheleng residents outside the Ficksburg Magistrates Court  where the cops accused of killing Andries Tatane appeared.
Meqheleng residents outside the Ficksburg Magistrates Court where the cops accused of killing Andries Tatane appeared.

Ficksburg relives Tatane pain

By BEAUREGARD TROMP Time of article published Jul 15, 2011

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The dozen or so policemen came walking up the road, casually clutching their shotguns. The crowd in front of the Ficksburg court pointed threateningly at them.

A banner baring the image of a dying Andries Tatane and that of a weeping Molefi Nonyane was held aloft, like a standard into battle.

Moments earlier, seven of the eight policemen accused of Tatane’s killing had stood in the dock.

Nicodemus Israel Moiloa, Mothusi Magano, Mphonyana Ntaje, Olebogeng Mphirime, Jonas Skosana, Kanathasen Musamay and Isaac Finger stood with their hands clasped behind their backs and at attention as the case was postponed for trial in November.

The eighth accused, Solomon Moeketsi, who has been admitted to a psychiatric clinic in Pretoria, diagnosed with stress-related problems, was not present on Thursday.

After being denied bail in the Ficksburg Regional Court in May, the eight appealed to the Bloemfontein High Court, where they were released during the same month on R1 000 bail each.

Not one glanced at Tatane’s widow Rose, who sat in the front row of the gallery, accompanied by family members.

As Rose emerged from the court, a crowd of about 50 members of the Meqheleng community were waiting to hear news of the court proceedings.

“This is an illegal gathering and if we start arresting people, there will more trouble,” one senior police officer was heard telling a community leader.

The order to disperse saw the crowd, whose buoyant singing could be heard from the court during proceedings, turned angry.

“Andries Tatane: Your death shall not be in vain”, read the bouncing banner as the crowd started singing and dancing again.

Some in the crowd started pelting police with orange peels, while others turned away motorists trying to pass on a side road. Rose moved swiftly past the situation, which threatened to deteriorate.

“Nothing has changed,” she said as she made her way to a waiting car.

Police withdrew to their vehicles, including an armoured Nyala, returning with shotguns and teargas, as they lined up across from the crowd, who hurled abuse at them.

“I was here. I saw what happened. We don’t need this,” said community leader Molefi Nonyane.

On April 13, barely 50m from a confrontation that was taking place with the police, Nonyane sat next to a Nyala, cradling his dying friend.

His words seemed to have the desired effect as both parties backed off and the crowd eventually dispersed.

“It was like it was happening all over again. I could feel my heart beating fast.

“I could not let it happen again. It still tears at my heart,” said Nonyane afterwards.

Tatane’s killing, broadcast on national television, brought the concerns of the Meqheleng community to the fore, with top government officials dispatched to quell the series of violent protests that followed.

The results of an investigation into allegations of mismanagement, maladministration and corruption are still to be made public.

Free State MEC for co-operative governance Mamiki Qabathe is expected in Meqheleng today to inform the community of the report’s findings.

The pressing issue for many residents has been access to water, with many forced to walk long distances to collect it.

In the last few months, standpipes have been erected at numerous plots, including that of Maphello Sephiri.

In April, The Star walked the 1 841 steps she, seven-month-old Mpho and three-year-old Tsepang have to take twice daily to ensure water for washing and cooking.

“It’s much better now. There’s water in the morning from five to nine and then again from four to seven in the evening,” said her brother Mojalefa, who was doing the family’s washing. - The Star

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