It has been 35 years since the disappearance of anti-apartheid activist Nokuthula Simelane.
Her family believes she was murdered by former security police officers and will this Thursday ask the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to declare her to be presumed dead.
Simelane, who would have turned 60 in September, was allegedly abducted and tortured by former anti-apartheid security branch members in 1983.
The four officers implicated in her death - Msebenzi Radebe, Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretorius, and Frederik Mong - appeared in court on several occasions, but their trial is yet to start.
They are facing, among others, a murder charge, after Simelane was allegedly abducted in the parking area of the Carlton Centre in Joburg more than 34 years ago.
It is claimed the then 23-year-old was tortured and killed. Her family has been waiting for answers for more than three decades.
Former national director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams decided to prosecute the four accused for her murder based on evidence gathered by the priority crimes litigation unit of the National Prosecuting Authority following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings.
The four were earlier released on R5000 bail each.
Their trial was put on hold as they fought a legal battle for the police to pay their legal fees.
Judge Cynthia Pretorius at the time said the State was liable for their legal fees and that it had failed the Simelane family in refusing to pay up. This caused the trial to drag, while the family waited for justice.
Simelane’s sister, Polokwane mayor Thembi Nkadimeng, said in the application for her sister to be presumed dead that if the circumstances relating to her disappearance were considered, the overwhelming probabilities were that Simelane was dead.
Simelane was at the time of her disappearance in 1983 a 23-year-old university graduate and courier for Umkhonto weSizwe.
She moved between Swaziland and South Africa. “She was betrayed by one of her own, abducted and brutally tortured by the security branch of the former SAPS in September 1983,” Nkadimeng said.
She was never seen again.
Nkadimeng said: “We know from the TRC hearings that my sister suffered terribly at the hands of the secret branch. We know that she refused to collaborate with the forces of apartheid. For this she paid the ultimate price.”
According to her, given her sister’s grim state when she was last seen alive, the family believed it was beyond debate that Simelane was dead. It was said that after she was captured by the security forces, she was tortured for several weeks.
Her family’s efforts to find her were fruitless.
Nkadimeng said that they did not expect the previous apartheid-era government to investigate her disappearance, but had hoped the new government would.
“We were wrong, as it took the family many years to force the authorities to consider a prosecution.”
Not even an investigation sponsored by the Foundation for Human Rights could shed more light on the matter.
Nkadimeng said if her sister was still alive, there was no doubt she would have contacted her family.
Meanwhile, judgment is expected on Monday in the stay of prosecution application brought by former security police officer Joao Rodrigues regarding his murder charge for the 1992 death of Ahmed Timol.
This anti-apartheid activist died after he fell from the 10th storey of the notorious John Vorster Square building while being interrogated by the then security forces.