Two white police officers Thursday were sentenced to hang for the murder of a black youth who was beaten and then shot during a police unit's drunken foray into a black township.
If the executions are carried out, it would the be first time in South Africa that white policemen were hanged for crimes committed while on duty in a black township.Key testimony against Warrant Officer Leon de Villiers, 37, and Constable David Goosen, 27, came from other members of their 10-man riot unit pressured by police investigators into abandoning a cover-up.
Several officers testified that de Villiers, the unit leader, had ordered Goosen to "take out" 18-year-old Mlungisi Stuurman because the youth had been too badly beaten to be set free.
Stuurman was taken to a riverbank and shot in the back of the head on July 26, 1986, in the black section of Cradock, in eastern Cape Province.
Justice N.W. Zietsman, who presided over the trial, convicted the two men on Wednesday, saying de Villiers had led his men on a "beating expedition" in which residents were assaulted indiscriminately.
According to testimony during the trial, members of de Villiers' squad drank heavily, conducted a blood-oath ceremony swearing to secrecy, then entered the township at about 3 a.m., assaulting several blacks.
Following another bout of drinking at their base, the squad returned to the township after daybreak.
Stuurman, who was wearing a T-shirt bearing the slogan "Forward To People's Power," was chased and grabbed by officers when he tried to walk away from them, then was assaulted, several officers testified.