JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – South African prosecuting authority on Wednesday said it will not appeal the controversial acquittal of seven police officers for the murder of an unarmed protester whose brutal assault was filmed.
Andries Tatane, 33, was assaulted and shot with rubber bullets by uniformed police during a 2011 protest against government services in Ficksburg in the central Free State province.
The quashing of charges against the seven officers last week has caused an outcry, amid fears of growing police brutality, with the images harking to apartheid-style force.
The graphic footage depicts Tatane’s final moments as he is beaten with batons by a group of uniformed officers in riot gear.
Puffs of smoke are clearly seen as rubber bullets are fired at him before he is seen with a bloody chest wound. He later collapses to the ground.
The court acquitted the men after it found that the state could not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said it had hoped for “an outcome that would not leave such deep disappointment and pain” to all who saw his brutal death “in a democratic South Africa”.
But it said the ruling was based on facts.
“It is highly unlikely that another court would find differently,” it added.
However, it will open a docket to probe perjury charges against two officers who recanted statements when testifying.
During the trial, two of three witnesses denied their original statements, relating to the identity of the accused.
All were found to be unreliable and not credible.
The video footage from three sources did not show all faces which were covered with helmets and it was not ballistically possible to link the rubber bullets to weapons as when live rounds are used.
“At this point, it became clear that the prospects of convincing the court of the identities of the accused would not meet the evidential weight that the court required,” said the NPA.
The case initiated a furore over the use of force by the police, which exploded last year when 34 miners were shot dead during a wildcat strike.
Police officers were recently arrested for dragging a Mozambican migrant behind a police van to a station where he died in custody.
After the case sparked fresh outrage, another incident of dragging from a vehicle was also reported elsewhere.