By Harriet Mclea
TENSIONS are expected to flare when six policemen accused of assaulting and killing Ficksburg protester Andries Tatane appear in court today.
Thousands of angry community members are said to be preparing to voice their anger by picketing outside the Ficksburg magistrate's court as the six officers make their first appearance since their arrest on Saturday evening.
Police reinforcements from Bloemfontein will assist in maintaining order after what has been described as the "worst form of police brutality" in recent years.
Tatane was beaten and shot dead, allegedly by a group of policemen during a peaceful service delivery protest on Wednesday.
The vicious assault shocked the nation when it was aired on prime-time TV news bulletins.
Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) executive director Francois Beukman yesterday said the arrest of the six followed an investigation by a top level delegation headed by the Free State ICD head Izzy Kgamanyana.
Beukman said 14 police officers from the public order policing unit were interviewed, but only the six were arrested.
Beukman could not confirm the ranks of the officers but said two would appear for murder, while four would face charges of assault with intend to do grievous bodily harm.
Police beat Tatane with batons and allegedly fired rubber bullets into Tatane's chest. He died on the scene.
ICD spokesman Moses Dlamini said the ICD was working closely with the office of National Public Prosecutor Menzi Simelane and would hand over the docket to prosecutors once investigations were complete.
Tatane's brother, Lefu Tatane, said the family was relieved at the arrests but that it was cold comfort for the pain they experienced.
Speaking at an ANC rally in Daveyton, Ekurhuleni, ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe said: "People have the right to demonstrate. We cannot allow the police to be a law unto themselves. What happened in Ficksburg is a blotch to our democracy. We shouldn't be seeing incidents like these in this day and age."
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the law would "ensure that any person found to have done any wrongdoing, including police officers, is accordingly punished".
Tatane's memorial service will be held at the Meqheleng Community Hall on Wednesday and the funeral, arranged by an ad-hoc Free State legislature committee, will follow on Saturday.