Hebron celebrates the 49th Anniversary of the tragic death of their hero, Kakadi Nicodemus Kgoathe


Press Statement – for immediate release

Hebron celebrates the 49th Anniversary of the tragic death of their hero, Kakadi Nicodemus Kgoathe

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The Kgoathe family has taken the first step towards resolving the 49-year-old mystery surrounding the death of their father, grandfather and great-grandfather, Kakadi Nicodemus Kgoathe who died in police custody, in the hands of the apartheid regime. As with the story of Bantu Steven Biko and many others who died in police custody, it was claimed that Kgoathe died from injuries he sustained after slipping in the shower.

Inspired by the story of Ahmed Timol and the relentless quest by his family to find the truth about his death, the Kgoathe family has begun a process to investigate the circumstances under which Kgoathe died in 1969.

While there was evidence to suggest that Kgoathe was brutality assaulted before his death, official records do not reflect this. This discrepancy has for many years been a source of pain and curiosity to the family. Solomon Modipane, also from Hebron died days later under similar circumstances, this could not have been a coincidence.

February 2018 marks the 49th Anniversary of Kgoathe and Modipane’s deaths. To this day, the causes of their deaths remain unresolved. The families remain hopeful that the government through its law enforcement agencies will assist them to resolve the mystery surrounding their loved ones’ deaths.

Kgoathe died at the age of 47.  According to the apartheid police, he died after slipping and falling while taking a shower at Silverton Police Station. The family does not believe the version of the police. After all these years, his family would like to find closure, by knowing the truth of his passing, hopefully by the time the 50th anniversary of his passing dawns.

Kgoathe, hails from Hebron, a village some 35 kilometres north west of Pretoria. He was a headman of the Madibo Clan, and also on the advisory council of the then Chief of the Bakwena – Ba – Mogopa tribe at Bethanie.

Kgoathe and others were accused of plotting to dethrone the Chief, who reported their alleged plot to the then Commissioner. They were later accused of sabotage and arson.

Kgoathe was arrested in Johannesburg on the 11th November 1968 while at work. He was the third from the group of accused to be arrested and charged in accordance with the then Terrorism Act.

After being detained at the police station for over two months, and his whereabouts unknown to his family, Kgoathe sent a message, though a person who had been arrested for an unrelated offence, to his eldest son Ben Kgoathe, to alert him of his detention. It was when Ben saw him in custody on the 18th and 19th January 1969 that he got to know of his whereabouts and witnessed the severe injuries he had sustained during his detention. Although Kgoathe had been coerce to say he had slipped and fell in the shower – Ben saw bruises on his entire body, which could only have been caused by being sjamboked. Furthermore, a cell warder who had ushered him into the cell cautioned Kgoathe to tell his son the truth. Kgoathe confirmed to Ben that he had been beaten during his interrogation and did not slip and fall. Kgoathe was apparently brutally tortured by the apartheid police officers on the 16th and 17th January at the Compol Building, days before his son saw him for the last time alive in custody.

Two weeks later, Kgoathe died a lonely and painful death on the 4th of February 1969 at HF Verwoerd Hospital. Ben had not told his mother of Kgoathe’s terrible state of health whilst in custody, to protect her from the horror he had witnessed. The apartheid police officers later broke the news to her that her husband (Nicodemus Kgoathe) had died in police custody and she was burdened with the task of identifying his lifeless body.

The untimely death of Kgoathe, who was a breadwinner, a young father and husband, in those dire and financially difficult times meant that Ben (then 25) and his mother Onicca (then 44), had to pick up the pieces and raise 7 children with the youngest being 8 years of age.


Sadly, Kgoathe never lived to tell his side of the story before the courts, after his trial date was set for March 1969.

After almost five decades, the families of these men still live in pain of the unresolved deaths. Their eyes well up at the discussion of the circumstances surrounding their fathers’ deaths. For them, the truth is all the justice that they could ever ask for. In months to follow they will embark on journey to seek justice. These families are appealing to the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) to open investigations into the circumstances that led to the tragic deaths of these two men, who were bread winners to their respective families and loving fathers to their families.

They will soon commence a process of discussing this matter with the NPA and the Department of Justice to seek justice.  


Family spokesperson: Amon Ramosole Kgwathe, 083 501 5220, nicodemus.kgoathe1969@gmail.com