Skip to main content

By Angela Mudukuti

The first prosecution of apartheid-era perpetrators in nine years could see the suspected killers of a student in court, writes Angela Mudukuti.

Last week was a very busy week for the nation. Between the State of the Nation address and the Nkandla matter other important developments may have been overshadowed. In particular, the case of Nokuthula Simelane.

After 33 years, several meetings with the authorities, letters, pleas and court papers, the National Prosecuting Authority has finally decided to prosecute the suspected perpetrators for Nokuthula’s kidnapping and murder. This will be the first prosecution of apartheid-era perpetrators since the 2007 plea bargain in the Adriaan Vlok matter. But why has it taken so long?

Nokuthula Simelane was a bright, 23-year-old university student who acted as courier for the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe. On September 8, 1983, scheduled to meet a fellow comrade at the Carlton Centre in Johannesburg, she walked into a trap.

She had been betrayed by one of her own. Waiting for her were members of the apartheid security police. Nokuthula was tortured for more than three weeks as they tried to extract information from her and to turn her into an informant. She was never seen again. Distraught and in need of answers, her family searched tirelessly for her.

In 1996 a police docket was opened and in 2001 the Amnesty Committee of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission granted some of the perpetrators amnesty for Nokuthula’s abduction, despite the fact that the committee found that they had lied about the brutal torture.

TRC law required that full disclosure be made and this was not done. Worse still, nobody applied for amnesty for her murder.

Despite this miscarriage of justice and affront to the memory of Nokuthula, her family continued to pursue justice and closure.

They engaged the NPA for several years, requesting that an inquest into her death be conducted or that a decision with regard to prosecution be made.

Little was done by the NPA. The Office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) did not make a decision in respect of the kidnapping, torture and murder of Nokuthula.

They also declined or failed to institute criminal proceedings in respect of the suspected perpetrators who did not apply for amnesty. Nokuthula’s family were forced to take the matter to court.

They filed papers before the high court in May last year, seeking to compel the NPA to either refer the disappearance of Nokuthula for an inquest or to make a decision with regard to prosecution.


Leave a Reply