By: Clyde Ramalaine
On Saturday, September 5, Nathaniel Bradley “Lockies” Julies a 16-year old Eldorado Park boy with special needs defined in being Down Syndrome was laid to rest in the Hero’s Acre of the Klipspruit West Cemetery.
His account from reasonable obscurity thrusts itself on our collective and public consciences in a horrific incident that played out a week before on Wednesday, August 26, 2020. An incident with tragic consequences when Nathaniel was brutally gunned down. His story chronicles a variety of themes with natural intermittent pitstops of cheap politics, prejudice, gross-injustice, police brutality, racism, police-coverups, conspiracy the legacy of apartheid, ANC- National Question identity politics, cheap territorial claims, disrespect and appreciation for special needs people.
The record shows, Nathaniel was not killed by a bullet from an Eldorado Park gang-member, but the life of this community child, whose face attests an easy smiling one was snuffed out by a police officer, someone entrusted to protect not only the community but more so children. Nathaniel a community child known by so many in a sense was a pleasant child who brought together a community in ways no adult, politician, clergy, businessman, sports-star or any artist ever could. His account defines a fulcrum moment that ringfence the debilitating and conflicting anomalies of apartheid aftermath that matured into democracy as almost automatic.
When news broke on the shooting of the innocent boy many as is custom shared their personal and even group opinions. While the community was immediately thrust into grieve, yet for those guided by their now known stereotypical prejudice punctured thinking it was just another Eldorado-Park shooting incident, almost in the monotone version of what else did you expect. One of those who quickly exposed himself in toxic prejudice stereotyping of a community-based on apartheid classification was none other than Gauteng Premier David Makhura who made the incident off as gang-related violence, with the following statement, “’Nathaniel Julius was caught in the crossfire between cops and gang’
With this the Premier devoid of facts, detail or examined information dared an opinion in the capacity of his borrowed constitutional mandate dared to take refuge in the Coloured – gang notion, to declare Nathaniel a gang violence case. In the mind of the premier Nathaniel was among gangsters, a death amidst gang-related activities engineered by crime. The problem is Nathaniel was not a gangster, he was not capable of any form of gangsterism given his medical condition.
The story details that Nathaniel was killed with a shotgun as we subsequently heard through a Sunday newspaper, with outlawed ammunition. The ever-smiling boy from “Hillbrow Flats” was brutally gunned down in a manner not even a stray dog deserved. His body shattered and slumped to the ground by the intensity of the close-range impact. He fell under the police truck from where he was pulled out by police officers and thrown into the back of the police truck.
Stripped of his identity, dehumanized and defaced reduced to a case of gangsterism a mere statistic and one who deserved no second thought. What is even more excruciating as businessman Gayton McKenzie in his keynote address recounts, Nathaniel’s damaged finger-tips attests a human-being clutching onto the soil in defiance of the injustice served upon, him thus leaving a symbolic line drawn in the sand – attesting ‘enough is enough’! Not only was Nathaniel who had a packet of his favourite biscuits in his pocket murdered but he was killed by police officers that would return to the crime scene to remove the spent cartridges in what we all know is the contamination of a crime scene something so often responsible for injustice to go unpunished.
It does not take rocket sciences to know Nathaniel was failed by the protectors and guardians of community safety. He was failed by adults who could not discern his condition. He was inadvertently labelled a gangster and a perpetrator when his condition renders him attracted to blue lights. Perhaps inadvertently that narrative and labelling were led by an ANC Gauteng Premier Makhura who to easily pronounced before ascertaining information. The Gauteng Premier has every capacity around him to ascertain information that would aid his speech on the subject but wilfully abandoned the infrastructure he had access to for a preference of armchair gang-related crossfire narrative.
Why did Makhura rush to reduce Nathaniel’s murder to gang-related violence? Why was it so natural for Makhura a politician to easily take comfort in reducing this shooting to what it was not? Does Makhura’s statement communicate more than what meets the eye?
Attempting to answer these troublesome questions compels one to admit that while apartheid with its expunged +627 pieces of legislation may be claimed a thing of the past the true identity and impact in damaged prejudiced racialized thinking is alive and brimming in democracy. Notwithstanding claims of a Biko “Black Cohort” of solidarity by victims of apartheid that shared albeit, in degrees of incremental pain the scourge of a heretic system in its pungent brutality, the uncritically bequeathed apartheid identity of “African” as appropriated by a Democratic era appears immune to the web of apartheid thinking so much that as apartheid held views on blacks the “African” today in political office holds the same views of a Coloured identity. Makhura the ANC national question identity African is not capable to free himself from the racial abuse he was subjected to and hence opines of Coloured communities in a similar vein as apartheid ideologues.
In the mind of those who share Makhura’s epistemology Coloureds live and breathe in gang-infested spaces, therefore, all killings are gang-related violence meaning when the police shoot in Eldorado-Park or any of all the many “Parks” be it Hanover Park, Alra-Park, Reiger-Park., Harmony-Park or Grassy-Park etc as aptly narrated by Mount Carmel Ministries Leader, Pastor Michael Bobby who delivered the homily we he said it, ‘Coloured people are a people parked one side’, it’s almost natural to deal with gangs. Makhura, therefore, with his ill-timed and devoid of research statement potentially justified the brutality of the killing that Scorpio the policeman executed.
On another level, Makhura’s indolence is not unique or singular but stand in a confirmed tradition of Gauteng Esidimeni Health massacre of over 140 lives of people served an injustice by a black government notoriously known for its self-enrichment, arrogance and corruption just not its care of people.
When Simon Scorpion Ndyalvane killed Nathaniel, he didn’t know that he just gave Eldorado Park its own Hector Pietersen in eternity. Since 1976, and beyond when National Youth -Days in SA in a democracy are celebrated it is the face of Hector Pietersen that confirmed the brutality of savagery, racist hate and the fight for student liberation.
May we accept on August 26, 2020 the wrong child was shot; the wrong innocent person was made a victim of police brutality in Eldorado Park. The wrong one was reduced to a gang-related statistic. As painful as it may sound, we ready to agree it had to be Nathaniel Bradley ‘Lockies’ Julies, the boy who struggled to speak, to die because much as they tried, they could not pin the gangster label on him. It simply would not stick. Thus, lays bare the cruelty of this heinous crime for which justice is sought not in the simplicity of a politician’s cheap anger, threatened suspensions, apologies and half-hearted solidarity from politicians who naturally assume an apology is good enough. Despite attempts of Detective Sergeant Foster Netshiongolo who tried to conceal evidence against his two colleagues charged with the murder of Nathaniel, the latter’s blood cries out for justice.
Being a part of those who came to bid farewell to Lockies and seeing a community united in its pursuit of justice one is not fooled to think this one will blow over like many others before. One of the challenges that confronted us at the gate of the cemetery besides the usual EFF attention-seeking was a scene of police subservience to one individual who directed who was allowed into the cemetery. I wish I could say the person was a family member, no that was not the case. The individual who even the Brigadier of the Police came across as completely controlled by is one the community readily claims as having the police on his payroll. While one may not be able to corroborate these claims, the facts are I was stunned how many people from clergy to the ordinary reiterating the Eldorado Park police station as having many rotten apples that are under the control of lawless ones. What I saw at the gate of the cemetery will never leave my conscience.
If ‘Lockies’ did anything he unlocked a unity in anger a pursuit for rightful justice here and now. Those who continue to hide behind legislation of a common ‘black identity ‘ as also referring to Coloureds have gotten away for 26 years with this when officials have mastered the art as to how to make the “African in particular” count when employment equity, economic opportunities, BEE scorecards are made.
I have argued the focus in thought-provocation in SA remains short-sighted since we hitherto have not critically engaged the apartheid bequeathed and Democratic era appropriated ‘African’ notion of identity marking since this is the elephant in the room. The African identity in this epoch translates to automatic economic and opportunity benefit and those whom the ANC declares in its National Questions as uniquely African lack the courage of their convictions to admit that injustice is permitted to be served in this era. This is part of my current academic research.
May the death of Nathaniel nurture the tree of true emancipation for people Apartheid served with a classification of Coloured. May his blood water the roots of resistance to apartheid racialized identity marking which democracy in uncritical sense lock stock and barrel appropriated. May Nathaniel Julies be the name all hear when we are the talk of heroism.
To Makhura and his ilk, we say you will understand the insult you served with your nonchalant gang-violence label you opted to infer when you see and feel the resolve of a people that led the first attempt at land invasion by Portuguese as far back as 1483. You will appreciate this is not a people that are wrongly attributed an identity born from the fallacy of miscegenation (products of pure white and black races). You will understand these are people who for an elongated period were insulted as having no culture only because some be, they white, black or Indian have shared this sophism of Coloureds defining a cultureless people.
May Nathaniel’s death as painful as it is light the lantern of hope to genuine equality and justice as not measurable in a questionable ‘African’ identity but real in daily societal praxis.
May, Nathaniel’s brutal killing, emancipate the apartheid damaged minds on both sides of the proverbial racial railway lines.
May his demise liberate those who in suffocating prejudice and nauseating racial bigotry continue to stigmatise a people apartheid classified as Coloureds with adjectives of gangsterism, violence, drugs, drunkards, illegitimacy as mere products of miscegenation.
May it neutralize the sick minds who continue to perpetuate Coloureds not a people in their own right with a necessary undeniable history, culture and language that predates the arrival of the first Europeans and Bantu groups that migrated from Central Africa downwards.
May Nathaniel put the spotlight on the troublesome African claims of identity in exclusion of some.
It is beyond time that the principle of equality and justice is not sloganeered in lack of content of non-racialism but actualized in daily living. Nathaniel Bradley “Lockies” Julies did not die in vain and his memory will be celebrated for the rest of the time of a SA. Let freedom reign from Hillbrow flats to Gauteng Legislature. Let equality stand for the marginalised Coloured identity from equal land and job opportunities to economic access. Let justice roll as a mighty river and righteousness like a mighty stream.