Sister of MK operative accuses state of betrayal

May 17, 2018

 

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SEEKING JUSTICE: Thembi Nkadimeng

The Star Early Edition; 16 May 2018; BALDWIN NDABA

THE family of an Umkhonto weSizwe operative, Nokuthula Simelane, who was abducted 35 years ago and is still missing, blame the post-apartheid ANC government for their continued misery and anxiety.

These comments were made by Simelane’s sister, Thembi Nkadimeng, in a formal application in the high court in Pretoria for the state to pay the legal fees of three apartheid police officers charged with her murder.

Nkadimeng, who is the ANC mayor in Polokwane, expressed her outrage at the government for its refusal to grant legal aid to Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretorius and Frederick Barnard Mong.

The three policemen – who were given amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for their role in the abduction of Simelane in the basement of the Carlton Centre in the Joburg CBD in September, 1983 – are accused of her murder.

Coetzee, Pretorius, Mong and Timothy Radebe were charged on February 26, 2016 in the Pretoria Regional Court, only after the family’s lengthy battle with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Radebe is not applying for legal aid. The men are out on bail of R5 000 each.

Nkadimeng, through advocate Muzi Sikhakhane SC, argued that the court should force the state to pay the legal fees of the three officers, saying they acted on instructions from senior officers when they abducted Simelane in 1983.

“They acted within the cause and scope of the police. It was an act of kindness (to kill her). They used state machinery to do so. It is common cause that Nokuthula, then 23, was abducted at the Carlton Centre by the Special Branch.

“She was tortured and beaten beyond recognition. It was a policy of the state to kopdraai, which was to turn those opposed to apartheid into informers. This happened through untold suffering and torture,” Sikhakhane said.

He said the three officers were pursuing the goals of the “criminal state” to do what the state expected them to do, which was to preserve apartheid.

Appealing to the court to grant the order, Sikhakhane said Nkadimeng was failed by the apartheid government to reveal her whereabouts, and by the post-apartheid ANC government for delaying the prosecution of those involved in Simelane’s disappearance.

“The family want to know whether she was fed to the lions or crocodiles or where her body is… To her family, Nokuthula was not a terrorist. She was just a girl,” Sikhakhane said.

In her court papers, Nkadimeng said: “This was the second betrayal of Nokuthula and everything she stood for.

“This betrayal (by the ANC government) cut the deepest, as it seemed that even her own comrades who were now in government sought to sweep things under the carpet.

“This deprived me and my family of closure and our right to dignity. My father, Matthew Simelane, went to his grave without knowing what happened to Nokuthula.

“My brother, Antonio Lungelo Simelane, died in 2016 after suffering from years of anxiety and depression. My mother, Sizakele Ernestina Simelane, now 77 and sick with nervous tension, fears that she will die without knowing or burying Nokuthula’s remains with the dignity she deserves,” Nkadimeng said.

The State has asked the court not to grant Simelane’s request, saying Coetzee and Pretorius quit the police in 1997, which excluded them from obtaining legal assistance.

The state’s counsel, advocate Hamilton Maenetje, argued that Mong would be considered for legal aid as he was still serving in the police.

Maenetje raised eyebrows in court when he argued that the three officers charged with murder could have exceeded their powers, if they were to be positively linked to the murder.

He said the then standing orders of the police did not allow officers to kill.

But counsel for Nkadimeng objected, saying Maenetje was using a section in the constitution to justify their decision not to grant the three legal assistance.

Judgment was reserved.

 


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