The Gauteng high court has admitted into evidence a secret recording that implicates three Eldorado Park police officers in a plot to cover up the circumstances surrounding the murder of 16-year-old Nathaniel Julies, living with Down syndrome, during lockdown operations on 26 August last year.
The admissibility of the recording came under question on Wednesday, when defence lawyers for the accused questioned its authenticity and the legality around how it was obtained.
On Thursday, it emerged that five South African Police Service (SAPS) members had supper in a marked van that parked at an Eldorado Park block of flats before the unarmed teenager was killed, allegedly by one of the officers.
Defence advocates continued their cross-examination of the state prosecutor’s first police witness, who has testified that he secretly recorded the accused after Julies was killed.
Constable Mandla Sithole, a new graduate who joined the Eldorado Park police station as a graduate trainee, took the stand in the high court, sitting in Palm Ridge this week.
Sithole is one of several police witnesses to be called by the state.
Julies was gunned down shortly after buying his routine biscuit snack at the spaza shop next to his home in Eldorado Park, in the south of Johannesburg.
He would have been on the street a few minutes into the curfew under the Covid-19 lockdown, which started at 9pm at the time.
Advocate Solly Tshivhase, acting for accused one, Caylene Whiteboy, had put it to Sithole that his first recorded statement after Julies’s murder contradicted his testimony in court this week.
This relates to whether it was accused one or two who fired at a crowd in Freedom Park before the tragedy.
Tshivhane told Sithole that Whiteboy would claim he also fired at people in Freedom Park.
Sithole testified that the senior officer in command, Simon “Scorpion” Ndyalvane, gave him rubber bullets to load a shotgun when they arrived at a truck outside the “Hillbrow Flats”, where they were following a lead about stolen car parts.
“It was very busy. Accused two [Ndyalvane] gave me the shotgun to load, while the others went to the truck,” he said.
But Whiteboy’s defence argued that this was not true.
During her bail hearing, Whiteboy claimed that her senior, accused two, loaded the firearm and instructed her to shoot.
Sithole said that he was seated in the middle of the back seat of the vehicle, but Tshivhase put it to him that he was, in fact, sitting behind Ndyalvane on the right side.
In the previous days of the trial, Sithole alleged that Whiteboy identified Julies as someone she recognised, but also called a “code 604”, which SAPS uses to identify intellectually challenged citizens.
The abandoned truck that Sithole was testifying about was the location where the state’s first witness, Tasneem Kaldine, stated that she saw an officer pull Julies’s lifeless body from underneath. The child had allegedly rolled under the truck after being shot.
Kaldine’s daughter, also a witness, who was standing metres away from the scene, has been missing for several days and did not arrive for her testimony on Tuesday.
A warrant for her arrest has been issued after several failed attempts to contact her.
On Thursday, cross-examination revealed details of how the five officers present in the police van inspected the truck, where they found nothing; and then proceeded to get back into the car, where they continued eating the food they had bought earlier that night.
Cross-examination continued after lunch on Thursday, with the defence continuing to question the authenticity of Sithole’s recording, and his intent.
“I put it to you that you did all that just to cover yourself,” Tshivhase said.
Tunicia Phillips is a climate and economic justice reporting fellow, funded by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa.