'Andries Tatane died in vain': Family reflects on tragedy 10 years later

Tatane was 33 when a police rubber bullet struck him in the chest on 13 April 2011; his last moments were captured live on camera while others scrambled to save his life.

Seipati Tsoeu, Andries Tatane's sister, says there has been no change in their town since her brother was killed 10 years ago. Picture: Boikhutso Ntsoko/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - On the 10th anniversary of Andries Tatane’s death, his family has been reflecting on a life that was tragically taken away and what has happened in the community of Ficksburg, in the Free State where he was protesting for basic services.

Tatane was 33 when a police rubber bullet struck him in the chest on 13 April 2011; his last moments were captured live on camera while others scrambled to save his life.

The 33-year-old married father of two was unarmed and was shot while trying to intervene and protect an elderly person from being sprayed with water.

READ: HRC probes Andries Tatane judgment

Seven police officers who had been charged in connection with his killing were acquitted by a court and the State never appealed.

It’s a warm Sunday morning when we meet up with Tatane’s family at his home in Meqheleng.

It’s a five-minute drive from where he took his last breath in Ficksburg, opposite the Setsoto local municipality’s offices.

“It’s a very sad day for me; 10 years that my beloved brother has been gone and the municipality failed us, the law failed us and nothing happened.”

Tatane’s sister, Seipati Tsoeu, said that in April 2011, their home was flooded with political heavyweights.

Ministers and local politicians all came to express their sympathies while making promises to the family.

An RDP house built for them took years to complete and then nothing.

Tatane’s nephew, Mohau Tsoeu, said that they had lost all hope in government and their cry for help had fallen on deaf ears.

“Government has failed, the justice system has failed the community. It’s as if Tatane never happened, we don’t need money to have a memorial, we just want to meet and pray and say, ‘we remember you Tatane’. Why promise us something they can’t deliver, we are humans, we are not toys, and we are not plastic. This yard was full but after the funeral, they were all gone.”

READ: Tatane's family disappointed with court ruling

The family showed Eyewitness News the murky water that often flowed from their taps. They keep it in 5 litre bottles for later use because of water cuts by the municipality.

This is what Tatane and many others were fighting for a decade ago - clean water and proper toilets.


Local ward councillor, Connie Matsobako, admitted that government had not done enough to improve the living situation of residents following Tatane's death.

But she also blamed the community for not paying their municipal bills or stealing water pipes.

“Rome was not built in one day. You should also remember that we are still trying to fix these things, but the problem is also when the municipality doesn't have money.”

Matsobako said residents must shoulder some of the responsibility for the non-delivery of services

“We can’t fix everything; it’s a long time, 10 years. We tell them every blessed day to pay their bills. We try to fix the pipes but maybe two to three months later, the community steal the pipes.”

The Tatane family said that they wouldn’t be voting in this year’s municipal elections. They felt that their votes would be wasted on those who did not care about their quality of life.

WATCH: 10 years after Andries Tatane’s death, Fiksburg govt says Rome was not built in a day


Tatane’s family was finding it hard to have closure: “We just need closure; we need justice to tell us what happened;. No one was charged and we need to know the truth. Everybody saw the footage, but no one was responsible for that. The wounds are still fresh, and the pain is palpable.”

Seipati struggled to get words out when she talked about her brother's death.

Through tears, she explained how she still hoped that after so many years, the matter could be revisited by the authorities to review the circumstances under which her brother died.

Mohau believed that they were being mistreated because they had no money.

“The justice system works for people who are rich, people who are poor have no rights. Now there is a new apartheid - the oppression of poor people.”

The family said that Tatane’s death was in vain.

The recent death of Mthokozisi Ntumba, who was shot allegedly by police in Braamfontein during student protests, has also been hard on the Tatane family, flooding them with memories of their own loss.

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