By Bongani Tshabalala
FICKSBURG-Some of the police officers who were involved in the fatal shooting of Andries Tatane a decade ago are still occupying their positions, working as public order police, while others have been deployed to other areas of the service.
This was revealed by the 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’ 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 as far as sanctioning them.
According to Sitole, the officers were also taken for psychological counselling to confirm whether or not 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,” explained Sitole.
Tatane died after being shot with a rubber bullet at close range by police during service delivery protest, just in front of Setsoto municipal hall in Ficksburg 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 were acquitted.
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 allegedly 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.