Former Soweto Special Branch members Tim Radebe, Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretorius and Frederik Mong, accused of murdering Nokuthula Simelane in 1983, stand in the dock in the Pretoria Magistrate Court. File picture: Thobile Mathonsi/Independent Media
Johannesburg - Police Minister Nathi Nhleko could be forced to pay the legal costs of former Soweto Special Branch members charged with the murder of Nokuthula Simelane, who was abducted in the parking area of the Carlton Centre in the Joburg CBD 33 years ago.

On Thursday, Simelane’s sister, Thembi Nkadimeng, won her first round in her quest for justice for her sister, an Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) combatant, when the high court in Pretoria granted her permission to join the alleged murderers of Simelane in forcing the police minister to pay for their legal fees.

Nkadimeng is also the mayor of Polokwane.

The four alleged murderers of Simelane - Tim Radebe, Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretorius and Frederick Mong - were charged in the Pretoria Regional Court on February 26 last year following a battle lasting more than 32 years.

The accused were each granted bail of R5000. The case against them was postponed four times. The last postponement was on November 25.

“The reason for the ongoing postponement was to allow the applicants an opportunity to settle a legal dispute that had arisen between them and the SAPS on the question of costs.

Four former Soweto Special Branch police officers are on trial for the kidnapping and death of ANC operative Nokuthula Simelane.

“The police refused to pay for the legal costs of the accused, and as a result the applicants launched proceedings in this matter,” said Nkadimeng in court papers.

She said it was after the Gauteng provincial commissioner of police, Deliwe de Lange, advised them on May 4 last year that their applications failed and that led to Coetzee, Pretorius and Mong taking Nhleko’s decision on review. The trial against them was postponed to July 28 because of the costs battle.

Nkadimeng then approached the high court asking it to accept her as an intervening party in the review application. She too wants the police to pay for the legal costs of the accused, saying it would help ensure a speedy trial that she hoped would bring closure to her aggrieved family.

This past Thursday, the high court granted her the right and ordered her to file her founding affidavit by Thursday this week.

In her court papers, Nkadimeng detailed how her legal team wrote to Nhleko asking him to consider the accused’s request for legal assistance. Nkadimeng said the decision to kill Simelane was taken with the full knowledge of then-president PW Botha.

“It will be demonstrated that the applicants (killers) were mere cogs in the larger security machinery of the state that acted violently and unlawfully against opponents of apartheid.”

Nhleko has 15 days to respond to Nkadimeng’s affidavit before the matter can be set down for trial.

Nkadimeng also gave shocking revelations of how her family were denied access to justice by Simelane’s own comrades and the authorities.

She said they heard during the TRC hearings how her sister was brutalised, given electric shocks and thrown into a zinc farm dam. “The conditions of her captivity were dehumanising,” she said.

The accused were not acting on their own volition as it was the standard operandi of the special branch, she added.

“We did not expect the former SAP to investigate themselves. However, we firmly believe the new democratic South Africa would take the necessary steps. We were wrong as it took the family many years to force the authorities of the democratic South Africa to consider a prosecution,” Nkadimeng said.

She said: “This was the second betrayal of Nokuthula and everything she stood for This deprived me and my family of closure and our right to dignity.

“My father, Matthew Simelane, went to his grave without knowing what happened to Nokuthula. My brother, Antonio Lungelo Simelane, died last year after suffering from years of anxiety and depression. My mother, Sizakele Ernestina Simelane, now 76 years old and sick with nervous tension, fears she will die without knowing, and without burying Nokuthula’s remains with the dignity she deserves.”

The Sunday Independent