Johannesburg, 20 May– Thembi Nkadimeng, the sister of disappeared anti-apartheid activist, Nokuthula Simelane, today filed an application before the Pretoria High Court compelling the National Director of Public Prosecutions and the Minister of Justice to refer the kidnapping, torture, disappearance and murder of Nokuthula Simelane to a formal inquest. An inquest is a judicial inquiry into an unnatural death which may lead to a prosecution.
In 1983, Nokuthula Simelane was abducted, tortured and forcibly disappeared by members of the Security Branch of the former South African Police. She was a twenty-three year old university graduate and acted as a courier for Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress, moving between Swaziland and South Africa. Her remains have never been found. The family has been denied the right to bury their daughter with the dignity she deserves.
Nkadimeng, who is currently the mayor of Polokwane, said that there has been no rest for her family since her sister’s disappearance over 30 years ago, “We know she suffered terribly but we don’t know how she died, and where her body is today. We have spent three decades looking for Nokuthula. Now we want justice and closure.”
In 1996, a police docket was opened and in 2001 the Amnesty Committee of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) granted some of the perpetrators amnesty for Nokuthula’s abduction, including certain police officers who the Committee found had lied about the brutal torture. This was notwithstanding the full disclosure requirement laid down in the TRC law. None of the perpetrators applied for amnesty for her murder.
Notwithstanding repeated pleas by the family to the authorities, some 32 years after the disappearance of Nokuthula no decision has been taken to refer her case to an inquest, neither has a decision been made whether to prosecute the perpetrators who did not apply for amnesty for murder or kidnapping.
The untenable delay and inaction from the South African authorities constitutes a violation of the family’s rights to human dignity and equality, and is inconsistent with the rights to life, freedom and security of person. It also stands as a deep affront to the rule of law in South Africa.
“Nokuthula’s case brings to the fore the need to adequately address the legacy and crimes of apartheid” said SALC’s director Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, “gross violations of human rights should not and cannot be swept under the rug.”
The case discloses evidence of political interference by the government into the work of the National Prosecution Authority which effectively barred the investigation of cases recommended for prosecution by the TRC.
Nokuthula’s family is assisted by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre represented by Advocates Muzi Sikhakhane and Howard Varney, instructed by the Legal Resources Centre.
A press conference including Nokuthula’s family will be held on Friday 22 May at 10am at the SAHA Boardroom, Constitution Hill, within the Nursery Section of the former Women’s Jail, on 1 Kotze Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
For more information:
Angela Mudukuti, International Criminal Justice Lawyer, SALC; Cell: 076 762 3869; firstname.lastname@example.org
Carien van der Linde, Attorney, LRC; Cell: 082 852 3713; email@example.com