150 people died in 2 years as a result of police action in Gauteng, court hears

Prosecutor in Nateniël Julies case says crimes committed by police are 'very prevalent'

Police officers Scorpion Simon Ndyalvane, left, and Caylene Whiteboy appear at the Protea magistrate's court in Soweto, in connection with the death of Nateniël Julies.
Police officers Scorpion Simon Ndyalvane, left, and Caylene Whiteboy appear at the Protea magistrate's court in Soweto, in connection with the death of Nateniël Julies.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

As many as 150 people lost their lives at the hands of police officers in 2018 and 2019 in Gauteng, the Protea magistrate's court heard on Wednesday.

State prosecutor Mzwandile Mrwabe made the revelation during the bail hearing of three police officers implicated in the killing of 16-year-old teenager, Nateniël Julies, in Eldorado Park, Gauteng.

Mrwabe told the court that it was not in the interest of justice for the trio to be released on bail, as the crime they stood accused of was prevalent.

“These are applicants, who are members of the police ... allegations are that they shot a young man dead. Is this kind of offence prevalent in our jurisdiction or in the entire country, or not?” he said.

He submitted a document, as well as statistics submitted by police watchdog, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).

He revealed that in 2019 alone, 3,835 assault cases against the police were recorded. He also revealed hundreds had died at the hands of officers.

“In 2019 alone, 397 deaths were reported, while 214 people died in police custody.

“Ipid annual statistics from 2018 and 2019 confirm this, because in Gauteng alone, there are plus/minus 150 cases that were reported in this period. It tells you, your worship, that these types of offences are very prevalent,” Mrwabe submitted to the court.

The officers implicated in julies' killing are Sgt Scorpion Simon Ndyalvane, Const Caylene Whiteboy and Sgt Vorster Netshiongolo.

Ndyalvane and Whiteboy were charged with premeditated murder, defeating the ends of justice, discharging a firearm in a public space and unlawful possession of ammunition. Netshiongolo was charged with accessory to murder after the fact, defeating the ends of justice, possession of prohibited ammunition and accessory after the fact.

Mrwabe argued law enforcement officials had a responsibility to protect, but they had failed to do so in the Julies case.

“He was mentally not well; he had Down's syndrome. We are told this boy was very much fond of police or police cars,” he said.

Detailing the moments leading to the shooting, Mrwabe said that two of the accused were on a “shooting spree”.

“He [Julies] waved at the police van. Applicant number one [Ndyalvane] took the microphone and chased away the boy. Applicant number one instructs application number two [Whiteboy] to shoot the boy ...” he said.

Mrwabe further argued the pair had earlier used a firearm to disperse a crowd that was drinking.

“It is clear that they had the hunger to kill,” he said.

The defence attorneys argued that the state’s case was weak and there had not been enough evidence linking the trio to the crime. They argued their clients should be released on a bail as per the right to liberty and that community outrage should not be used as the basis for their further incarceration amid further investigations.

However, Mrwabe opposed their submissions.

“The right to liberty is indeed contained in our constitution and so is the right to life. What we have in front of the court is that applicant number one and applicant number two took the life of the deceased,” he said.

He said the right to freedom of an accused person could be limited.

While the third accused, Netshiongolo, had minimal involvement in the crime, the state also opposed his bail. The court heard that Netshiongolo was off duty when the incident occurred.  

“Applicant number three went to the scene, misled the community who were there and said, 'look, I am not able to assist you because I am not on duty', but went to Bara [Baragwanath Hospital] to see applicant number one and applicant number two and planted the evidence at the scene ... He failed to do what is morally right” 

Magistrate David Mhangu is expected to deliver bail judgment on the bail applications on September 28.

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