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White S. Africa Police Tell of Bloody Foray Into Black Township

October 29, 1987|SCOTT KRAFT | Times Staff Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — After drinking brandy and performing a blood-brother ritual around a campfire, a police Unrest Unit made an unauthorized foray into an eastern Cape province township a year ago, and one of the white officers killed two black men there, two white policemen have testified.

Constable Michael D. Neveling, on the stand in the murder trial of his two police colleagues, described how a resident of the township was stabbed to death and later a black youth was killed, execution-style with the squad leader's approval.

The graphic evidence came in the trial of Warrant Officer Leon De Villiers, the Unrest Unit leader, and Constable David P. Goosen. The government has charged the pair with two counts of murder and aggravated assault. They have pleaded innocent.

The charges of police brutality are among the most serious brought against white officers since South Africa instituted its state of emergency 16 months ago.

According to the testimony, De Villiers' unit, based in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, was dispatched to the scene of a funeral on July 25, 1986, in the black township of Lingelihle near Cradock.

Two white members of the 10-member unit, Neveling and Sgt. Heinrich Bloementhal, testified that the officers drank brandy while en route to Cradock and continued drinking after they had arrived at their overnight camp.

About 2 a.m., according to the testimony, the officers heard that a police vehicle in the township had been struck by stones and they decided to launch their own mission, without permission. But the men first cut their forearms and mixed their blood by pressing their arms together--a pact that the men would stick together and keep one another's secrets.

Soon after entering the township, Goosen stabbed a black man, and the group left the victim lying on the ground.

The unit returned to the camp but was sent to the township later that morning. On that patrol, Neveling testified, some of the white officers questioned residents by beating them and putting plastic bags over their heads.

Wheanut Stuurman, 18, was injured during the questioning, and unit leader De Villiers said, according to the two white officers' testimony: "This boy must be 'taken out.' He is too badly hit to detain."

Then Goosen and two other officers took Stuurman to a nearby river bank. When they returned, Neveling testified, Goosen said he had shot Stuurman in the neck and thrown him into the water.

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