Andries Tatane

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Andries Tatane
Born (1978-02-22)22 February 1978
Died 13 April 2011(2011-04-13) (aged 33)
Ficksburg, Free State, South Africa
Nationality South African
Spouse(s) Rose Tatane

Andries Tatane (22 February 1978 – 13 April 2011) was a 33-year-old South African citizen who died during a service delivery protest in Ficksburg. Seven police officers accused of his murder and assault were acquitted in the Ficksburg Regional Court in March 2013.[1][2]


Andries was a member of the ANC until 2008 when he left the ANC to join the breakaway party COPE. In the months before he died he left COPE to join the Meqheleng Concerned Citizens (MCC), an autonomous local community organisation.[3] He was a mathematics teacher, a community activist, journalist, community newspaper publisher and possible independent candidate for the municipal elections due to take place in May 2011. He was married to Rose Tatane.[4]

Events surrounding his death[edit]

On 13 April 2011, Andries Tatane, together with 4,000 other protesters, took to the streets and marched to Setsoto Municipal Offices in Ficksburg, Free State, South Africa to protest against poor service delivery in the area. The protesters were met by police members who attempted to disperse the crowd with water cannons. While some arrested protesters were being bundled into police vans, Tatane tried to argue with the police and to block a water cannon vehicle, at which point he was grabbed around one arm by a police officer. Tatane was seen to pull his arm away from the officer who then started to beat him with a baton. Tatane appeared to move aggressively towards this officer. Four or five other police officers then pulled him away and began to kick and beat him with batons. During this time he was twice shot in the chest. Tatane collapsed shortly after and died on the scene 20 minutes later.

While Tatane's death as a result of police action during a protest is by no means a unique event in South Africa, it had notably garnered greater nationwide attention than any previous such occurrence. One of the main reasons for this was the fact that the entire incident was filmed on T.V. cameras and later broadcast during the prime time evening news of the national broadcaster, the SABC.


Following Tatane's death, there has been public outrage about the manner in which he died.[5]

Tatane's death has been described as "a watershed moment in public perceptions of state violence after apartheid".[6]

An investigation into his death was launched by the Independent Complaints Directorate's commission. The South African Police Service has also launched their own internal investigation into the matter. The death of Tatane has placed both the issue of rising anger over a lack of service delivery as well as police brutality in the media spotlight, with comparisons being drawn[7] to the deaths of Hector Pieterson and Steve Biko at the hands of police during the height of apartheid.

It has also emerged that this was not an isolated incident[8][9] and that the ICD has investigated 1,769 separate incidents of people dying in police custody or as a result of police action in 2010.[10] National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele's statement in late August 2009 that police officers should be able to "shoot to kill"[11] without worrying about the consequences will undoubtedly be brought to the forefront again.

The ANC's National Spokesperson, Jackson Mthembu, condemned the brutality, but also chastised the SABC for broadcasting the footage during the prime time news, citing the fact that it might have upset sensitive viewers,[10] calling on the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to investigate the SABC's editorial decision. Mthembu has been one of the most vocal supporters of planned legislation to introduce a Media Appeals Tribunal to govern the South African media;[12] legislation which is currently held in abeyance.

After visiting the Tatane family in Meqheleng, Ficksburg, on 19 April 2011, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, directed attention to the lack of justice and delivery on promises which had preceded the incident and points out the irony of the protesters having been met with water cannons, "attacked with the very thing they don’t have the pleasure of in their daily lives." He called on the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Sicelo Shiceka, to "visit and see the appalling conditions under which God’s people live" and the Minister of Human Settlements, Tokyo Sexwale, to "provide houses". He added that "Minister Nathi Mthethwa and President Zuma should publicly apologise for this embarrassing act of aggression by police."[13]

The Archbishop has subsequently said: "Let us affirm and call for a renaming of our police services back to 'safety and security' and not a police 'force', for this force seems to maim and kill rather than offer safety and security." [14]

There was an election boycott in the area following Tatane's death.[15] In May 2011 it was reported that the Meqheleng Concerned Citizens group was a credible structure with growing influence.[15] However, by December 2011 it had degenerated to the point of being described as "a toothless organisation led by calculating tenderpreneurs".[16]

A number of police officers were charged with Tatane's murder but they were found not guilty on the grounds that Tatane's murderers could not be identified as they were wearing helmets. However, a British journalist was easily able to identify his killers from video footage.[17]

Cultural references to Tatane[edit]

In poetry, Andries Tatane's death is referenced in a work by Adam Haupt, entitled "For Andries Tatane".[18] This poem has since been republished as the epilogue to a scholarly book titled Static: Race & Representation in Post-Apartheid Music, Media & Film [19]


  1. ^ "Court acquits police officers in Andries Tatane case". Business Day. 28 March 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  2. ^ "Tatane: So many questions remain". City Press. 31 March 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Sosibo, Kwanele (21 April 2011). "Who was Andries Tatane?". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 16 August 2011. He was a very brilliant student, a pioneer by nature. He was very skilled in initiating things that would benefit others. He wanted to see all the people freed from unemployment and illiteracy. 
  4. ^ Andries Tatane entry at Who's Who of Southern Africa
  5. ^ Several opinion pieces in South African newsmedia:
  6. ^ It is time to be offended, Herman Wasserman & Sean Jacobs, The Daily Maverick, 8 May 2011
  7. ^ Mngxitama, Andile (19 April 2011). "Tatane's death underlines need for government to deliver". The Sowetan. Retrieved 23 April 2011. Hector Pieterson was the symbol of the 1976 uprising in the same way that Tatane is the symbol of service delivery struggles today. 
  8. ^ Amnesty red flag police brutality, Craig Dodds, 13 May 2011
  9. ^ Amnesty International South Africa Report 2011
  10. ^ a b Ilham, Rawoot; Underhill, Glynnis (15 April 2011). "Protester's death not an isolated case". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2011. Video footage of the protester, identified as 33-year-old Andries Tatane, caused shockwaves when it was broadcast on SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) prime time news on Wednesday evening. 
  11. ^ Carvin, Goldstone (1 August 2009). "Police must shoot to kill, worry later - Cele". IOL News. Retrieved 23 April 2011. Cele's philosophy on shooting before being shot, which he has preached in KwaZulu-Natal during his time as MEC for community safety, has led to the province having more deaths in police custody under review than any other province during the past year. There were 258 deaths in custody in KZN during 2008/2009 - 83 more than the previous year. 
  12. ^ Mandy, Rossouw (14 January 2011). "ANC backtracks on media tribunal". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2011. In July last year Mthembu was adamant there should be even harsher punishment for errant journalists. "If you have to go to prison, let it be. If you have to pay millions for defamation, let it be. If journalists have to be fired because they don't contribute to the South Africa we want, let it be," he told the Mail & Guardian. 
  13. ^ Visit to Ficksburg and Tatane Family, by the Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town, blog dated 21 April 2011
  14. ^ Archbishop Thabo Makgoba’s Sermon at the Service for the Renewal of Vows, Maundy Thursday, 21 April 2011, published 22 April
  15. ^ a b Disillusioned voters snub Ficksburg poll, KWANELE SOSIBO, Mail & Guardian, 20 May 2011]
  16. ^ Ficksburg: The dorpie where revolution was a false alarm, by Kwanele Sosibo, Mail & Guardian, 23 December 2011
  17. ^ Police brutality, and the mass amnesia that threatens to obscure it, Inigo Gilmore, Daily Maverick, 22 July 2013
  18. ^ Thought Leader,[1] accessed online: 21/04/2011
  19. ^ Haupt, A. Static: Race & Representation in Post-Apartheid Music, Media & Film. HSRC Press: Cape Town, 2012.