It’s not often that one sees a person die on the evening news but on 13 April 2011, that is what millions of households across the globe were treated to. Andries Tatane was seen in various video clips protesting against poor service delivery in his area. He was wearing a white t-shirt and jeans in one clip actively chanting with other protesters. In the video footage that went viral online, Andries Tatane is surrounded by more than a dozen police officers who beat him repeatedly with standard police issue batons. Even after he falls, the police assault continues. Andries is then shot using rubber bullets and he dies twenty minutes later.
On Thursday 28 March, Business Day Live reported that the police officers accused of killing Tatane were acquitted and therefore, cannot be held responsible for Tatane’s death. The seven accused members of the SAPS all left the Ficksburg Regional Court as free people.
Magistrate Hein van Niekerk came to the conclusion that the state had not sufficiently proved its case against the accused. He said that there hadn’t been enough evidence to show that the accused officers were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The biggest stumbling block to the prosecution’s case was that the attackers were wearing helmets and therefore no one could say with certainty whose faces were obstructed by the helmets.
This ruling comes after the South African Human Rights Commission found that Tatane’s right to protest had been violated and even more regretfully, his right to life was grossly disregarded when excessive force used by members of the SAPS eventually led to his death.
South Africans, as well as the international community, reacted with shock and dissatisfaction at the outcome of the Tatane trial. As things stand, it seems that no one will ever be held responsible for the death of Andries Tatane unless of course, new evidence, more compelling and telling than an actual video showing the man die, comes to light.