“Ek nodig iets sterk.” These are the words assumed to have been spoken by the junior female officer who is the first accused in the trial of three police officers from Johannesburg for the murder in August last year of teenager Nathaniel Julies.
The recording includes comments such as, “Where is that other Flying Fish?” (an alcoholic beverage), followed by the female voice saying in Afrikaans that she needs something strong.
Sixteen-year-old Julies, who had Down syndrome, was shot dead in Eldorado Park in the south of Johannesburg in August last year, about five months into South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown. He was among scores of victims of police brutality since the commencement of the restrictions in March.
Earlier this year, the Independent Investigative Directorate (Ipid) said 49 cases of police brutality had been recorded since the start of the lockdown.
Julies’ mother, Bridgette Harris, said the recording, which was played in court during Wednesday’s (6 October) session of the trial, showed what little remorse the police had for the actions that killed her son.
Julies’ death sparked protests outside the area’s police station where residents raged over the alleged lack of accountability for the officers.
Day three of the trial got underway on 6 October with arguments relating to the admissibility of a secret recording in which a woman’s voice, said to be that of junior constable Caylene Whiteboy, can be heard discussing a cover-up story with other officers about Julies’ death. Defence attorneys for the three accused opposed the state’s plan to air the recording in court, arguing it violated laws pertaining to unlawful interception.
Judge Ramarumo Monama dismissed the defence’s bid to stop the airing through a request for a trial-within-a-trial, which gives an accused the right to a fair trial by testing the admissibility of evidence and the testing of innocence and guilt separately.
In the recording the woman is talking to other junior officers who had graduated from the same class less than a year before the tragedy. They were being mentored by senior public order police officer and accused number two, Simon Ndyalvane.
State witness and junior ranking officer constable Mandla Sithole secretly recorded conversations he claims were between accused one, Whiteboy, and her senior, Ndyalvane. The pair face five counts including murder, perjury, defeating the ends of justice and possession of illegal ammunition.
Sithole testified that Whiteboy was referring to alcohol in the recording where she refers to “something strong”.
He told the court that the male voice in another recording was that of Ndyalvane during a moment in which the officer said another officer would plant live ammunition at the scene of Julies’ shooting. That officer, the state will argue, was accused three, Vorster Netshiongolo, who was off duty when he allegedly received a call about the incident.
The ammunition, according to Sithole, was meant to support the South African Police Service’s version that a shoot-out between police and suspects accused of stealing car parts led to the teenager being killed in the crossfire.
The female voice in question gives the impression that she is questioning her seniors’ plan.
“I am going to get arrested, ne,” she says in the recording, to which a few voices chorus in response, “No, you are not.”
Sithole’s secret recording and testimony unveiled a pattern of brutality by police officers patrolling Eldorado Park and Freedom Park that day. He detailed how the two accused allegedly fired shots at people buying goods from spaza shops a few times before ending Julies’ life.
Court adjourned early on Wednesday to allow the defence advocates to prepare for cross examination on Thursday, 7 October.