AFRICANGLOBE – The four members of the apartheid-era Soweto security branch accused of kidnapping and murdering uMkhonto weSizwe operative, Nokuthula Simelane, say they want closure on the matter.
The four – Msebenzi Radebe, Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretorius and Frederik Mong – were released on R5 000 bail in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
In their affidavits, the men said they had no intention of fleeing the country as they wanted to see the case finalised and their names cleared.
“I want to find closure. I will not evade trial and I will abide by any conditions the court imposes,” Mong said in his affidavit.
“I would also prefer to get closure than be the accused of a crime I did not commit. I will stand trial,” said Coetzee in his affidavit.
The men appeared in a packed court that was heavily guarded. They all maintained that they did not kill Simelane, saying they would attend the trial to the end to clear their names.
The case was postponed until March 29. The men are facing charges of murder, with Radebe facing an additional charge of kidnapping.
Simelane disappeared in 1983 after she was arrested by security police.
She was allegedly taken to Norwood, in Johannesburg, and later moved to a farm in Vlakplaas, North West, where she was tortured.
On January 30, South Africa’s National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams decided to pursue the matter.
This was based on evidence gathered by the NPA’s priority crimes litigation unit following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings, said NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku.
Remains Never Found
Simelane was 23 when she was arrested. She was apparently on an ANC mission to South Africa from Swaziland under the pretext of buying a graduation outfit.
Two years after her disappearance, Simelane’s family sought the media’s help in finding her.
Her picture was sent to various newspapers.
A policeman who had worked at the Vlakplaas police station identified her. The policeman said the last time he saw her, she had become ill as a result of the assaults she endured.
Simelane’s remains have never been found. Despite this, the NPA said it believed it had a reasonable prospect of a successful prosecution.
Three of the accused had received amnesty from the sham Truth and Reconciliation Commission after they admitted to abducting Simelane, and would only face murder charges. The fourth faced both murder and abduction charges as he had never applied for amnesty.
Coetzee in his affidavit pointed the finger at uMkhonto weSizwe, saying they had abducted and tortured her, but had not killed her.
“The security branch in Soweto received information that Simelane would infiltrate South Africa through Swaziland. Police kidnapped her before she could do any harm and intended to turn her into an informant,” he said.
Simelane was then taken to a farm for further questioning and detention.
“That lasted for three weeks before she was released. She was dropped off in Mpumalanga near the Swaziland border so that she could enter the country on her own,” said Coetzee.
He said it was not known what happened after that.
“The operation was duly authorised. It is common knowledge that she was never seen again, but where she went or if she died remains a mystery. MK could have also killed her,” he said.
That statement was refuted by south Africa’s Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Kebby Maophatsoe, who addressed a group of MK members who were protesting outside court.
“What they are saying is an insult to the ANC. We want information on where her remains are so that we can give her a proper burial,” he said.
By: Karabo Ngoepe