Johannesburg - The four-ton truck that has been standing stationary for years at the notorious Hillbrow flats in Eldorado Park now serves as a painful reminder of the brutal death of 16-year-old Nathaniel “Lokkie” Julies, who was allegedly shot dead by a police officer on Wednesday evening.
The white truck, with deflated tyres and dirty windows, carries Nathaniel’s hand marks on the side, prints he left right after he was allegedly shot by the police. An incident that shook the whole of South Africa and triggered protests and unrest in the community whose members are calling out for justice for Nathaniel, who has Down Syndrome.
Three days after the fatal incident that once more puts a spotlight on police brutality, the main road in Eldos had been blockaded with tyres and rocks.
Children and adults yesterday were shouting and brandishing placards with “coloured lives matter”, saying they are a forgotten and bullied community.
Two police officers were arrested on Friday for the boy’s murder.
“The pair will be charged with murder and possibly defeating the ends of justice. The two South African Police Service members are attached to the Eldorado Park crime prevention unit,” said Independent Police Investigative Directorate spokesperson, Ndileka Cola.
On Friday Police Minister Bheki Cele went to the family to offer his condolences but was met by chants and an angry community that told him he was not trusted because of police corruption. He promised that the matter would be fully investigated and that the law would take its cause.
But 42-year-old Jean Barker, who has lived in that section of Eldorado Park for as long as she can remember, bemoaned police intimidation and bullying saying it made life much more difficult and Nathaniel’s killing was a case in point.
Barker alleged she witnessed the fateful shooting on what she describes as the most peaceful night ever at the Hillbrow flats, “as though danger lurked in the dark waiting to strike”.
She claimed she saw the “wandering police van, with blue lights on, stop right by my flat at around 20.30pm for about 15 minutes before proceeding to the entrance of the flats where an ear splitting shot sounded at around 9pm.
“I saw this all while I was peeping through the window because I was at first curious as to why the van stopped by my house, only to witness the most terrible deed at the hands of the police we are meant to feel safe around. They killed a young boy who meant no harm to anyone, especially because we all know Nathaniel and his condition. It was like these two police officers were hungry for blood and were looking for trouble," she alleged.
Mother of two Violet Mckenzie, who has lived in Eldos for 40 years, concurred saying the relationship between the community and the police officials of the area had been hostile for as long as she can remember.
“I could recall countless incidents that I have witnessed with the police, their lack of willingness to help even sick ailing children, how they bully the people around and don’t attend to the important issues as quickly as they do to the less important.
“For example, we have a serious drug problem in our area and yet they (SAPS) don’t do anything about it. Instead, when they arrest a criminal whose absence within the community guarantees our safety, right the following day we will see the very person roaming the streets. How then are you supposed to trust them?” The police are very useless and are a threat to the very community they are meant to protect,” said Mckenzie.
Another community elder Joseph Human said it was high time the police got replaced with dedicated civil servants. “The image that people have of us is not accurate. Yes we have our own challenges, but which township doesn’t?”
Community pastor and leader Dwain Ponsonby said there had always been a feud between the police and the community because of corruption, extortion, abuse of authority and preferential treatment towards a criminal over an upstanding citizen.
And although the community is a great one, it is marred by issues like unemployment and crime and the government should invest in solving.
“The implicated officer is a bully and what’s scary about this is that we don’t know if it’ll happen again or not. We have children living here and need a partnership that helps protect them,” said Ponsonby.
A silent sit down in honour of Nathaniel will take place on Sunday at 3pm along the main road in Eldorado Park.