Mob violence erupts after death of unarmed protester

EMOTIONS boiled over in the Free State town of Ficksburg yesterday where angry residents turned violent, baying for the blood of the policemen allegedly responsible for the death of a fellow protester.

At least three buildings were burnt down while residents blockaded the streets after an unarmed man, Andries Tatane, was allegedly beaten and shot to death by a group of police officers.

Tatane's vicious assault by at least six policemen has shocked the nation and angered the community after it was shown in SABC's prime-time news bulletin.

By late last night police and thousands of residents from Meqheleng and surrounding townships were locked in a tense stand-off. Entry to the area was restricted as violent outbreaks increased, with residents throwing objects, including petrol bombs at the police.

What was initially meant to be a peaceful demonstration against a lack of service delivery instantly turned violent after Tatane was repeatedly attacked with batons, kicked and shot twice.

Footage of the 33-year-old married father of one collapsing in front of the protesters and dying about 20 minutes later has been described as one of the worst known scenes of police brutality. Yesterday it incited renewed anger with hundreds of protesters setting alight an office in the Home Affairs building and the town's public works offices at midday.

Several schools were forced to close as learners - some of whom Tatane tutored in maths, science and Afrikaans - joined in the protest.

Police had their hands full trying to contain violence and restore calm to the area.

Protest march convener and chairperson of the Meqheleng Concerned Citizens group Sam Motseare said: "The community is very angry as a result of what unfolded yesterday."

Motseare described the attack on Tatane as "police brutality typical of the apartheid system".

Tatane's family is battling to come to terms with his death and have demanded answers from police.

In an emotional scene, his family yesterday afternoon visited the spot where he was killed.

A contingency from the Independent Complaints Directorate was despatched to investigate the matter and has been mandated to speedily finalise it.

ICD spokesperson Moses Dlamini said they had sent a bigger team to deal with the investigation and that a postmortem would be conducted today.

None of the police officers involved in the attack have been suspended yet.

National police commissioner General Bheki Cele's office refused to comment.

Human Rights Commission chairperson Advocate Lawrence Mushwana called for tough action against the police officers involved in Tatane's murder.