The trial of four former Soweto security policemen accused of murdering female uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) operative Nokuthula Simelane more than three decades ago has been postponed in the High Court in Pretoria until September.
Msebenzi Radebe, Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretorius and Frederick Mong, have been accused of murdering Simelane after she was kidnapped in a parking lot at Carlton Centre in Johannesburg in September 1983.
Judge Nomonde Ngqibisa-Thusi postponed their trial to September 20 for an application by one of the accused for access to portions of the police docket, which had been refused by the prosecution authority.
Prosecutor Raymond Mathunja told the court the trial was ready to proceed, but three of the accused had raised an issue that the police declined their application for legal assistance.
“This is an old matter and most of the witnesses and the accused themselves are of advanced age,” he said.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) only decided in January this year to prosecute the four men for Simelane’s murder after her family tried in vain for decades to have the perpetrators brought to book and launched a court application to force the NPA to prosecute.
Coetzee, Pretorius and Mong were among the former policemen who applied for amnesty before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for kidnapping and torturing Simelane, but not for her murder. Radebe never applied for amnesty.
Simelane, an MK courier, disappeared just a few days before her 24th birthday and her graduation ceremony at Swaziland University. She was abducted at Carlton Centre by members of the Soweto security branch and initially held at the Norwood police flats, where she was interrogated and badly beaten. She was then taken to a farm near Thabazimbi, where she was held captive and allegedly cruelly tortured for more than a month.
Pretorius and Coetzee claimed before the TRC Simelane had agreed to become a government agent and was sent back to Swaziland, where they believed she was murdered by MK after her defection was discovered, but other members of the unit testified that the once-beautiful Simelane was tortured until she was unrecognisable before she was shot and buried near Rustenburg.
Simelande’s body was never found, but the NPA earlier said there was enough evidence for a successful prosecution.