Nokuthula Simelane was an ANC activist and undercover operative who went missing in 1983.

Pretoria – Four former apartheid era police officers who stand accused of the murder of anti-apartheid activist Nokuthula Simelane 33 years ago, were granted bail of R5 000 each in the Pretoria Regional Court on Friday.

Musebenzi Radebe, Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretorius and Frederick Mong submitted detailed affidavits through their lawyers, Shaun Hamilton and Antonie Klopper, stating they had no intentions of fleeing and evading prosecution, adding their families wished to remain in South Africa.

The accused further stated that if this was their intention, they would have done so immediately after it was reported in the media that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was planning to prosecute those responsible for Simelane’s abduction and murder. The prosecution did not oppose bail.

When handing down the court’s decision, magistrate Adriaan Bekker said that he found no evidence that the accused would evade trial or that they would interfere with investigations. However, he warned the accused not to contact any of the witnesses as it would be considered a breach of their bail conditions.

The case was postponed to March 29 when the matter will be referred to High Court for trial.

In their affidavits, accused two (Coetzee), three (Pretorius) and four (Mong), represented by Klopper, emphasised that they were involved in Simelane’s abduction but later released her near the South African/Swaziland boarder in Mpumalanga. However, they said they had no further details of what happened afterwards and that amnesty was granted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in the late 1990s.

Coetzee, Pretorius and Mong were charged with murder only as they were granted amnesty for the abduction and kidnapping from the TRC, while Radebe is facing both murder and kidnapping charges.

When Simelane disappeared in 1983 she was 26-years-old and a student at the University of Swaziland, a member of Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC), and a courier for the one of MK’s units.

She was abducted when she went to meet one of her sources in the basement of Carlton Centre in Johannesburg, which turned out to be a police trap.

Chairperson of the uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), Kebby Maphatsoe, pleaded with the accused to “come out and tell the truth” as to what happened with Nokuthula so that the Simelane family could find closure on the matter.

“This is the beginning. What we are waiting for is for the accused to be honest, be truthful and tell the family where are the remains of Nokuthula are. The rest will follow. We want former apartheid security forces to come out openly and confess so that the families can get closure to issues of their missing loved ones.”

Nokuthula’s younger sister, Thembi Nkadimeng, said the family had not found closure even after the TRC hearings as nothing much was disclosed apart from the accused’s claims that they had abducted Nokuthula for about six weeks and then released her alive.

“If their (the accused) evidence during the TRC was truthful, we wouldn’t be here today. Even the judges (TRC Commissioners) themselves said ‘we don’t find your evidence to be true’, said Nkadimeng.

“To my belief, she (Nokuthula) was beaten beyond recognition. She couldn’t walk. She was handcuffed for a period of over six weeks and put in the car boot. It would have not been possible for her to walk through the border and go back home alone…”

Nkadimeng said all the family wanted was closure and that would come as soon as they were able to see the remains of their sister and be able to perform family rituals and lay her to rest peacefully.

National Prosecution Authority (NPA) spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku said the State had a strong case against the accused and this was the reason they were pursuing the case.

He further said the NPA was prepared to avail resources to get to the bottom of this matter so that the family could get closure.

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