SAPS to foot the bill as Apart

From left to right: Msebenzi Radebe, Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretrious and Frederick Mong.

SAPS to foot the bill as Apartheid-era cops stand trial for 1983 murder

Court proceedings can finally go ahead.

SAPS to foot the bill as Apart

From left to right: Msebenzi Radebe, Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretrious and Frederick Mong.

After over 30 years since her death, the trial of four Apartheid-era security police officers accused of murdering Umkhonto Wesizwe member, Nokuthula Simelane can now finally go ahead, following the Pretoria High Court’s landmark ruling that the South African Police Service (SAPS) pay for their legal fees.

The freedom fighter was only 23 when she disappeared, and her body was never found but, as reported by the Mail & Guardian, her family accepted that she had died and – lead by her sister, Thembisile Nkadimeng – have been engaged in a protracted battle to bring about justice.

On Tuesday, Judge Cynthia Pretorius ruled that the SAPS foot the legal bill for the three accused, Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretorius, Msebenzi Radebe and Frederick Mong, who were all members of the Security Branch at the time of Simelane’s disappearance.

“We did not expect the former South African Police to investigate themselves,” Nkadimeng said.

“However, we firmly believed that 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.

“This was the second betrayal of Nokuthula and everything she stood for. This betrayal cut the deepest as it seemed that even her own comrades, who are now in government, sought to sweep things under the carpet. This deprived me and my family of closure and our right to dignity.”

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The accused men did appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), where they confessed to the abduction and torture of Simelane, but denied killing her.

They revealed that after beating and torturing her to the point that she struggled to walk and her face was unrecognisable, they dropped her off at the Swaziland border, where she was never seen again.

They were indicted in 2015 when Nkadimeng obtained a court order prompting the National Prosecuting Authority to take action, but the trial would not begin straight away as the three men were in a bid to obtain legal assistance, which they were denied by Gauteng police commissioner Major-General Deliwe Suzan De Lange who – among other reasons – stated that only Mong was still a member of the SAPS.

However, Pretorius ruled that as all four men were still members of the police at the time of the murder, and placed the responsibility of providing legal assistance for them on the SAPS’ table.

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