Cops involved in 2011 shooting of Andries Tatane still in SAPS

Psychological evaluation was conducted after they were cleared by court

29 March 2021 - 14:37
By naledi shange AND Naledi Shange
The police officers who were initially implicated in the fatal injury of protester Andries Tatane in 2011 returned to their posts after they were cleared by the courts. File photo.
Image: Elvis Ntombela The police officers who were initially implicated in the fatal injury of protester Andries Tatane in 2011 returned to their posts after they were cleared by the courts. File photo.

Some of the police officers who were involved in the fatal 2011 injury of Andries Tatane are still members of the SA Police Service (SAPS) working as public order police, while others have been deployed to other areas of the service.

This was revealed by national police commissioner Gen Khehla Sitole on Monday as he and police minister Bheki Cele delivered a report compiled by a panel of experts appointed to look into the police’s conduct when it comes to their responses to protest action.

Sitole said after the officers were found not guilty of Tatane’s murder, the SAPS could only go so far in sanctioning them.

Sitole said the officers were taken for psychological counselling to confirm whether they were fit to return to their posts and those who were, returned to work. Those who were found to have been disturbed by the Tatane incident were deployed to other areas within the service.

Tatane died after being shot with a rubber bullet, seemingly at close range, by the police during a service delivery-related protest in Ficksburg, in the Free State, in April 2011.

Seven police officers were charged in connection with his killing, but in 2013 a court found the officers not guilty.

The incident‚ which was caught on TV cameras‚ raised a lot of questions about police brutality and their use of excessive force.

The report, which Cele unveiled on Monday, was commissioned after the Marikana massacre, which occurred a year after Tatane’s death, in which 45 people were killed in wage-related unrest at the Lonmin Platinum Mine in Marikana. At least 34 of them were striking mineworkers who were shot dead by the police.

The 596-page report, titled "Policing and Crowd Management", has made 136 recommendations on how the police should respond to protest action. They also touch on reviewing the SAPS code of conduct, issues of discipline, training and recruitment of officers, as well as police competency.

The report was also being unveiled on the same day that former deputy North West police commissioner William Mpembe, who played an integral role in the Marikana 2012 operations, and three others would find out whether they would be the first to be jailed for at least one of the killings that happened during that incident.

The North West High Court was expected to deliver judgment on this case on Monday.

Mpembe and the officers were accused of concealing information on circumstances surrounding the death of mineworker Modisaotsile van Wyk Sagalala, who died in police custody after being injured during the shooting.

Mpembe is involved in at least two other cases before the court involving the murders of mineworkers during a protracted strike at the Lonmin platinum mine.

Meanwhile, Cele said the process to criminally prosecute police members involved in the Marikana tragedy was ongoing.

“To date, the SAPS has paid out over R176m to compensate the families of those killed in the Marikana tragedy; R18m worth of civil claims are yet to be finalised. The process to finalise other categories of compensation are ongoing,” said Cele.

“There has been a directive from cabinet that the issue of the families of those killed before August 16 2012 must be looked at,” he added.

10,000 peaceful protests and 4,000 violent protests in a year

Recently, four police officers were charged after they allegedly shot a man dead as they responded to a student protest in Braamfontein earlier this month.

Mthokozisi Ntumba, a town planner, was leaving a doctor’s office when police officers armed with rubber bullets opened fire, hitting him numerous times, apparently at close range. He died at the scene.

Cele highlighted, however, that these incidents were isolated and did not necessarily mean that police officers were not well-trained.

“On the day Mthokozisi was killed, there were 25 protests - but you know of only one. When they are done properly, they don’t make news. They make news only when we make a mistake,” he said.

“In the last financial year, there were 10,000 peaceful protests and 4,000 violent protests. I would therefore not concur that police are not trained.”

Commenting on the report by the panel of experts, however, Cele said its recommendations would be taken seriously and the police would tighten their systems to ensure that capable people were employed in the service.  

The bulk of the recommendations [by the panel and the Farlam Commission which probed the Marikana shooting] are to be realised in the short to medium term as they are incorporated into the SAPS Amendment Bill,” Cele said.

“This bill has gone through a round of public comments and these inputs are being finalised before tabling the bill in parliament.

“The bill gives the assurance that no automatic rifles may be used in crowd control management.

“It will also address matters of vetting and integrity testing for those employed under the SAPS Act, including municipal police. Those joining the service will also need to be subjected to processes that ensure the integrity of the organisation is maintained.

“The civilian secretariat for the police service will monitor the implementation of the recommendations and provide regular progress reports.”