Statement from the Foundation for Human Rights
HE LIVED TILL THE AGE OF 96, BUT NOT LONG ENOUGH FOR JUSTICE
On Wednesday, while National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams was assuring media in Cape Town that the state was prioritising the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed by apartheid police, 96-year-old Phillip Mabelane passed away in Johannesburg with a broken heart over the fact that the killers of his son, Matthews, have never been brought to justice.
Matthews “Mojo” Mabelane was a student activist of the Soweto 1976 generation. He was arrested on 27 January 1977 under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act, interrogated at John Vorster Square, the Johannesburg headquarters of the Security Branch, and died on 15 February 1977 after a fall from the 10th floor. Police claimed Matthews had climbed out a 10th floor window onto a ledge while being questioned. An inquest ruled the death accidental.
It was the same building, and the same 10th floor, from which Ahmed Timol fell to his death in 1971. Timol’s death was ruled a suicide, but the inquest into his death was re-opened last year and the finding reversed to one of murder at the hands of police.
The reopening of the Timol inquest filled the Mabelane family with hope…
Earlier this week, the team of lawyers, investigators and activists behind the re-opening of the Timol inquest called on South Africans with information about eight other apartheid era atrocities, including Mabelane’s killing, to urgently reveal what they know.
The team includes representatives of the Foundation for Human Rights, Legal Resources Centre Khulumani Support Group and the law firm Webber Wentzel, internationally-renown detective Frank Dutton, Advocate Howard Varney and Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Cajee. It is seeking to assist prosecutors and police to ensure that justice is done.
The other seven cases are the alleged “suicides” in police custody of Neil Aggett, Hoosen Haffejee and Babla Saloojee; the alleged “natural” deaths of Nicodemus Kgoathe, Solomon Modipane and Jacob Monnokgotla, and the disappearance and murder of Nokuthula Simelane following her abduction by the Security Branch in 1983.
Nobody applied for amnesty to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in respect of their deaths. In its final report the TRC recommended these and other cases be investigated for purposes of prosecution, but little progress has been made.
In a statement on Sunday, Ms Yasmin Sooka, director of the Foundation for Human Rights and former TRC commissioner, appealed directly to former security policeman to break ranks with their apartheid masters, who can no longer afford them protection. She also called on others who may have information – from members of other branches of the police to cleaners, health and auxiliary workers – to come forward so that justice may finally be done.
“People are getting old. Mothers and fathers are taking the pain of the loss of their loved ones with them to their graves. Many of the perpetrators are already dead. We are running out of time,” Ms Sooka said.
South Africans with information on the Simelane and Aggett cases are asked to contact Mr Moray Hathorn (email@example.com / 011 530 5000), while information on the Mabelane, Saloojee, Haffejee, Kgoathe, Modipane and Monnakgotla matters may contact Ms Naseema Fakir (firstname.lastname@example.org / 011 836 9831).
Distributed by Oryx Media (Benny Gool 082 5566 556 or Roger Friedman 079 8966 899) for the Foundation for Human Rights.