Justice for family of Apartheid victim killed 33 years ago
South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is to charge four Apartheid-era security policemen for the 1983 kidnapping and murder of anti-Apartheid activist Nokuthula Simelane.
After 33 years of steadfast pursuit of truth and accountability, the family of the 23-year-old university graduate, who acted as a courier for Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress, will finally see justice done.
Moving between Swaziland and South Africa, she was abducted, tortured and killed by members of the Security Branch of the former South African Police.
Her remains have never been found and supporters said this denied the family the right to bury their daughter with the dignity she deserved.
But the new development has been welcomed by the Simelane family.
Although South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommended that more than 300 cases should be prosecuted, this is one of only a handful of cases that have been pursued by the NPA, following a High Court action launched by the family.
This is the first prosecution of Apartheid-era perpetrators since the 2007 plea bargain agreement was struck with former Police Minister Adriaan Vlok and four senior police officers.
Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretorius, Frederick Mong, Msebenzi Radebe will be indicted in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on February 26.
Coetzee, Pretorius and Mong will be charged with Nokuthula’s murder and Radebe will be charged with both her kidnapping and murder.
Coetzee, Pretorius and Mong were granted amnesty for her kidnapping but not her murder while Radebe did not apply for amnesty.
In 1996, a police docket was opened and in 2001 the Amnesty Committee of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) granted some of the perpetrators amnesty for Nokuthula’s abduction, including certain police officers who the Committee found had lied about her brutal torture.
This was notwithstanding the full disclosure requirement laid down in the TRC law, none of the perpetrators applied for amnesty for her murder and years of negotiations and correspondence with the NPA yielded no official action.
Pleas for an inquest were denied and requests to institute criminal proceedings against the suspects who did not apply for amnesty were refused.
Left with no alternative, Thembi Nkadimeng, sister of Nokuthula, filed an application before the Gauteng Division of the High Court seeking to compel the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) to make a decision on Nokuthula’s disappearance.
The family’s application, which included supporting affidavits from former NDPP, Vusi Pikoli, and a senior prosecutor, disclosed how the Simelane case, as well the other cases recommended by the TRC, were suppressed as a result of direct political interference.
While the NDPP and the Minister of Justice filed a notice of their intention to oppose, the launching of the case prompted the NDPP to re-open discussions with the family.
The filing of papers in the civil case has been held in abeyance pending these developments.
The Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which is assisting Ms Nkadimeng, said: “Regrettably, the announcement made by the NPA does not acknowledge the three-decade long struggle for justice by the Simelane family, nor does it disclose that, but for the investigations of the family and their High Court litigation launched last year, this case would have remained suppressed, as have all the other cases recommended for prosecution by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.