Family of late community activist Andries Tatane yet to recover from their loss 10-years on

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The family of the late Ficksburg community activist, Andries Tatane, is yet to recover from their tragic loss, on this day ten years ago. Tatane died after he was beaten and shot with rubber bullets during a confrontation with the police.

The street leading to the home of Andries Tatane remains riddled with potholes. Tatane was an activist, husband and a doting father of two young sons. He used to occupy a back room at his home which remained a constant reminder of what he wanted to achieve in life.

Just like many residents, Tatane was unhappy with the dismal service delivery in the area. He joined scores of protestors who took their fight to the doorstep of Setsoto municipality. Sadly, his life was cut short. Police used rubber bullets and batons to subdue him. The incident took place three days before his then four-year-old son’s birthday. Ten years later, the family is still hurting.

[Sensitive Footage Warning] Remembering Andries Tatane:

Tatane had a passion for education

Seipati Tatane is Andries Tatane’s sister, ” I still feel the pain that I lost a brother, and I’m sure by now he would be far with his life. I know I would have been the one witnessing his dreams.”

Tatane was a passionate Maths and Science tutor. He dedicated his life to helping high school learners with their studies.

In March 2013, seven accused police officers were found not guilty of his murder. Regional magistrate, Hein van Niekerk, found that the state did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The court found that Tatane was not an innocent protester and that he was violent on the day and obstructed police in their duties. The ruling was received with outrage, with some raising questions about the National Prosecuting Authority’s handling of the case.

Seipati says her wish is for something to be done for the community, “The sad part is that even what he died fighting for has not happened, we are still suffering in terms of service delivery. I would be happy if something better can happen for the community in memory of Andries Tatane. We know he loved teaching pupils, he loved to witness the success of youngsters. If they can open maths and sciences labs just to assist the community, I would be happy.”

After the death of Andries Tatane, Good Samaritans built a house for the family and his widow, Rose. Rose died in a car crash in Lesotho almost four years ago. The Congress of the People has been funding the studies of Tatane’s two sons.

The Ficksburg Regional Court also found that it was impossible to identify the accused as the actual officers who beat Tatane. The NPA also conceded that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the state’s case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Tatane’s death was in vain

Residents of Meqheleng Township in the Free State say the death  Tatane was in vain. Tatane was killed on this day ten years ago, during a scuffle with police near the Setsoto municipal offices in Ficksburg.

The final moments of activist Andries Tatane were caught on camera by SABC cameraman Filane Chomane.

The 33-year-old Tatane was among 4 000 protestors who marched to the Setsoto municipal offices. They were demanding a response from the municipality after they had handed over a memorandum of grievances a week earlier.

The march was spearheaded by the Meqheleng Concerned Citizens group. Among other problems, the area had been battling chronic water shortages for years. Chaos erupted when residents demanded keys to take control of the troubled municipality. Events took a turn for the worse when public order police, armed with water cannons, batons and rubber bullets, clashed with demonstrators. The police fired rubber bullets.

An unarmed Andries Tatane was severely beaten with batons and shot at close range with rubber bullets. According to the charge sheet, one of the rubber bullets was fired directly at his chest and penetrated his chest cavity.

The next day, residents went on the rampage and burned down offices of the Departments of Home Affairs and Public Works and a library.

Lereko Manako, the former chairperson of Meqheleng Concerned Citizens says to this day, their concerns remain largely unresolved.

“Many issues have not been addressed. For example, the very past Easter weekend some areas were without water. The one reason that I would say killed one of our youth here, Andries Tatane. So, personally I’m not impressed. I can say nothing has changed instead things have gone from bad to worse,” says Manako.

The municipality’s financial health is deteriorating. It collects far less than it spends. Several capital projects have stalled due to a lack of funds.

Another community activist Selloane Lephoi explains, “The same problem that he died for in 2011, we are talking about it. It’s worse today because sewers are overflowing all over the place, kids have died, you have small children who died because they had to walk back from school to home and they get swept away by water during rainy season. Things have worsened.”

The problem of water shortage has been compounded by ageing municipal infrastructure.

The community is aggrieved.

“The service is poor in Ficksburg, we don’t have water, when it comes out it comes with worms with a bad smell.  Also the roads are bad. Our big problem here in Meqheleng is water shortages. Sometimes the water is dirty and taps would run dry for a long time. It’s been raining but still there is no water, our taps are dry, we can’t even use our toilets in the house.”

Government says it has devised plans to mitigate the ongoing crisis.

Free State COGTA MEC Thembeni Nxangisa explains, “The problems are caused by an ageing infrastructure which results in water leaks. They intend to build a dam to augment water sources in the area.”

The Auditor-General says Setsoto municipality has failed to prioritise the maintenance of assets.

This has led to the municipality incurring more than R24-million of water and electricity losses. The massive losses resulted from burst pipes, tampering and theft.