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Trial of 4 accused of killing anti-apartheid activist Simelane will not resume soon

Former Soweto Special Branch members Msebenzi Radebe, Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretorius and Frederik Mong accused of murdering Nokuthula Simelane in 1983 stand on the dock in the Pretoria Magistrate Court in 2016. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/ANA

Former Soweto Special Branch members Msebenzi Radebe, Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretorius and Frederik Mong accused of murdering Nokuthula Simelane in 1983 stand on the dock in the Pretoria Magistrate Court in 2016. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/ANA

Published Feb 6, 2018

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ZELDA VENTER

The trial of four former Soweto special branch members accused of killing anti-apartheid activist Nokuthula Simelane more than three decades ago, will not resume anytime soon, as three of them are challenging the refusal of the police to pay their legal fees.

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The four - Msebenzi Radebe, Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretorius, and Frederik Mong - briefly appeared in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria on Tuesday.

They are facing, among others, a murder charge after ANC operative  Nokuthula Simelane was allegedly abducted in the parking area of the Calton Centre in Johannesburg more than 34 years ago.

It is claimed the then 23-year-old was brutally tortured and killed.

Her family had been waiting for answers for more than three decades.

During the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), it emerged Simelane was abducted in 1983 in the parking lot by Soweto security branch officers.

National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams decided to prosecute the four accused for her murder based on evidence gathered by the NPA’s priority crimes litigation unit following the TRC hearings.

The four were earlier released on R5 000 bail each. 

The trial was set down in 2016 to be heard over three months, but their lawyers told the court  that they were not ready to proceed.

Advocate Johan Gaum, representing three of the men, said his clients’ application for the police to pay their legal fees was still not resolved.. It was earlier refused by the SAPS top structure.

The three have now launched court proceedings to review and set aside the refusal. This application is due to be heard in May. Gaum earlier  told the Pretoria News that it was important that his clients secured payment of their legal fees by the SAPS. The case is set down for more than three months and their legal fees will run into millions. They cannot afford this and do not qualify for legal aid, he said.

Simelane’s sister, Thembi Nkadimeng, joined the review application against the minister, as she too, wants the police to pay the legal costs. She said this would ensure a speedy trial and bring closure to the family after all these years.

She said in an affidavit in the review application that those who killed her sister acted under orders of the then apartheid government and that the decision to kill Simelane was taken with the full knowledge of then president PW Botha.

The TRC earlier heard that Simelane was tortured during her captivity and later thrown into a zinc farm dam.

The criminal trial was meanwhile provisionally postponed to August 8 to determine a date when the matter will go on trial. 

Arguing that this is an old matter and both the witnesses and accused are of advanced age, the prosecution asked that the case not be unnecessarily delayed.

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