5 June 2018

Statement from the Foundation for Human Rights


Judgement confirms accused were not on a private frolic but part of apartheid state machinery

Today’s judgement by the Gauteng High Court compelling the police to pay the legal costs of former security policemen accused of murdering anti-apartheid activist Nokuthula Simelane in 1983 establishes an important principle in the quest to finally hold those perpetrators of human rights violations who evaded the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process, or had amnesty applications declined, accountable for their crimes.

Ms Yasmin Sooka, head of the Foundation for Human Rights and a former commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission said: “The judgement is confirmation that the three accused of Simelane’s murder were not on a private frolic of their own but were part of the apartheid state’s apparatus.  While we are pleased that former security policemen have been indicted for her murder and now hope for a speedy trial, these three ought not to be the only ones. At what point will the National Prosecutions Authority indict those at Command level?”

The Foundation for Human Rights is co-ordinating a multi-disciplinary team of lawyers, investigators and human rights activists – including representatives of the Legal Resources Centre, Khulumani Support Group and law-firm Webber Wentzel, internationally renown detective Frank Dutton, Advocate Howard Varney, and the nephew of the late Ahmed Timol, Imtiaz Cajee – pursuing justice in eight apartheid-era crimes, including Simelane’s disappearance. It is the same team that last year succeeded in persuading the National Prosecutions Authority (NPA) to re-open the inquest into Timol’s death in detention in 1971, and the judge to replace the apartheid inquest’s suicide finding with one of murder at the hands of police.

In today’s hard hitting judgement – noting the State’s Constitutional duty to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights, and the NPA’s policy that the maintenance of law and order in a human rights context required “effective and swift prosecution” – Ms Justice Cynthia Pretorius found that the state had “abysmally failed” Simelane and her family.

“The delay has lasted decades. Since the indictment of the three applicants, four postponements had already been grants in order to resolve the issue of legal assistance,” the judge said. 

Simelane’s sister, the Executive Mayor of Polokwane Ms Thembisile Nkadimeng, was a co-applicant with Nokuthula’s alleged killers in the matter. Ms Justice Pretorius said: “The fourth applicant has been pleading for years, and had to resort to litigation, to have the State institute criminal proceedings against the three applicants. This has caused suffering to the fourth applicant and her family – her father and brother had passed away before getting closure as to the whereabouts of Nokuthula.”

The judge added that it would be in the public interest for the trial of the three former policemen to commence as soon as possible to ensure justice was done in respect of the family, the accused and society. It was also in the public interest that the three applicants in the case had proper legal representation. The commencement of the trial had been unduly delayed, she said.

Ms Justice Pretorius ordered that the decision of the South African Police Service not to pay the costs be set aside; that the three accused were entitled to payment of their legal costs by the SAPS; and that the Minister of Police and the Provincial Commissioner Gauteng SAPS were jointly and severally liable for the costs of the application.

* Last month, the Foundation for Human Rights launched a public appeal for information relating to eight apartheid-era cases. Members of the legal and investigative team have received a deluge of information – about these and other cases. South Africans with information on the Simelane and Neil Aggett cases are once again kindly asked to contact Mr Moray Hathorn ( / 011 530 5000), while information on the Matthews Mabelane, Suliman Saloojee, Hoosen Haffejee, Nicodemus Kgoathe, Solomon Modipane and Jacob Monnakgotla matters should please contact Ms Naseema Fakir ( / 011 836 9831).

These are among the more than 300 cases recommended by the TRC for further investigation.


This statement was distributed by Oryx Media (Benny Gool 082 5566 556 or Roger Friedman 079 8966 899) for the Foundation for Human Rights.