Something very concerning happened this week. A man, identified as Andries Tatane, was allegedly beaten to death by six police officers during a service delivery protest near the town of Ficksburg, which, ironically, is in the Free State. Even more disturbingly, video footage of the incident was broadcast on state-run SABC news programmes.

SHOCKING: Andries Tatane died on Wednesday after he was allegedly assaulted by a group of policemen during a service delivery protest in Ficksburg. Picture: VOLKSBLAD

With local government elections happening next month, the ruling ANC was swift to condemn and instruct the minister of Police to probe the incident. And we all know how that will go: he’ll set up a commission of enquiry to probe the incident; its members will talk about producing a report within a year or two; and, if a report is eventually forthcoming, it will not be made public.

But the ANC seems more worried about the fact that it’s supposedly tame mouthpiece, the SABC, broadcast the footage: Government spokesman Jackson Mthembu said the ANC was concerned that the SABC aired the “shocking and disturbing images” on prime time television news, disregarding young and sensitive viewers.

Surprisingly, the six police officers involved have not been suspended. They have simply been moved to other trouble spots. It almost feels like 1976 all over again.

Writing in today’s Business Day, Itumeleng Mahabane sees this incident as part of a wider societal problem. He writes:

A MAN died this week. He died with his arms clutching his chest, trying to stop the blood spilling out of a gaping bullet hole.

His crime? In a country in which nearly 50% of the people live in poverty and where nearly 50% of black people are unemployed — most of them without the prospect of ever finding a job — he died because he wanted a better deal for his community.

There’s more, much more and the column is definitely worth a read. I also heard a little rumour, that has yet to be confirmed, that the victim fancied himself as a prospective councillor. If that is true, I’d like to know if he was (a) one of those removed from the ANC party list; (b) an independent; or (c) a candidate for an opposition party. The answers could be very revealing.

Sometimes I wonder if the ruling political classes and their Breitling-wearing, sushi-eating, acquisitive friends actually give a shit for the man in the street. I’m reminded of the words of one Oscar Ameringer: “Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.”

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