President of the South African Local Government Association Thembi Simelani-Nkadimeng has vowed to take time off from her busy schedule to ensure that justice prevails following the mysterious death of her sister Nokuthula Simelane.

The matter will be digested again at Pretoria High Court on August 8, 2019.The presumed death of anti-apartheid activist Simelane, who disappeared 36 years ago, in 1983 after being abducted, tortured and possibly murdered by apartheid police may be gazetted soon. Pretoria High Court granted Simelane’s family a provisional ‘presumption of death order’. Four former security police officers are awaiting trial in connection with her disappearance.

The implicated four police officers over Simelane’s death released on R5000 bail each earlier are; Msebenzi Radebe, Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretorius, and Frederik Mong – appeared in court on several occasions, but their trial is yet to start. Adv Shaun Abrahams, former national director of public prosecutions 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. However, the their trial was put on hold as they fought a legal battle for the police to pay their legal fees.

“It is tough; it is painful but the ultimate closure that we are seeking is worth the sweat and tears. As a family, we applied for the order which clearly explains the last month and days of Nokuthula life. In our view which is supported by the work of our private investigator Frank Dutton is that she was captured by the Special Branch Police Officers, held captive for about 6 to 8 weeks, brutally tortured and subsequently killed. My sister has been missing for more than 35 years now. The road to prosecution has been a long and painful one. My family was forced to take matters into its own hands by conducting its own investigations for years to push for a legal action,” Simelani-Nkadimeng said.

“I think the state has let us down as victims for reneging on an agreement that we took as families to say we are letting go of any civil claim that we are entitled to.Remember that other families lost breadwinners. So for us not to be given the truth, not to be allowed closure and not to be allowed the full implementation of the Act was a betrayal on the part of government. Govan Mbeki Municipality on the other hand built a life size stature to commemorate and honor her life, so it has not been entirely doom and gloom.”

Salga President said however she feel the greatest form of betrayal is by the perpetrators whom we have allowed into our pain and loss. “As a family we say as painful as it is; it is okay, but why do they kick our open arms which says it is okay to be brothers and sisters and build a united South Africa regardless of human rights violation we suffered as a family? The ANC has been helpful in so many ways from assisting the family to gather evidence and submitting statements/affidavits which were needed by investigators. They have always been available every time the family needs them for memorial services, filling in gaps on who Nokuthula was to them, the role she played in the struggle etc. We feel honored to this day of their assistance,” said Simelane Nkadimeng .

“There are days when my body just can’t take it anymore. Sitting next to my emotional mother during court proceedings is draining in ways you cannot imagine. I have seen the pain from her eyes when my father died not knowing what happened to their daughter. You can imagine the burden that my mother has because every time she speaks about this she says “may I also not die without having laid my daughter’s remains to rest”.”

According to Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) records Simelane who was a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe was tortured on a farm in the North West during 1983. She was never seen again. Willem Coetzee former Special Branch operative who was one of Simelane’s torturers told TRC that he believed she was killed by her fellow comrades upon her return to Swaziland after being detained for five weeks. However according to the reports earlier alleged Simelani was shot and murdered by the police.

Salga President said: “They always say the truth shall set you free. It is that freedom from worry and not knowing that is driving us as a family to search for the truth. It is pursuit of peace of mind that we would have done everything humanely possible to lay her soul and remains, if found to rest. It is the lesson to my children that one does not give up on family. But most importantly to all South African, it is making sure that we hold our democracy accountable to its mandate of justice to all. I reiterate, it is tough; it is painful but the ultimate closure that we are seeking is worth the sweat and tears.”

A police docket was opened in 1996 according to the Southern African Litigation Centre which is helping the Simelani-Nkadimeng. The centre said however in a statement: “In 2001 the Amnesty Committee of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission granted some of the perpetrators amnesty for Nokuthula’s abduction, including certain police officers who the committee found had lied about the brutal torture. This was notwithstanding the full disclosure requirement laid down in the TRC law. None of the perpetrators applied for amnesty for her murder.”

Simelani-Nkadimeng said Nokuthula’s case is but one example of hundreds of other cases that have been similarly neglected. “There are many other cases for which perpetrators have been denied amnesty or failed to apply for amnesty. Other examples where impunity still prevails includes the brutal murders of the Cradock Four and the PEBCO Three. Although Nokuthula’s case is not a class action on behalf of all victims of outstanding TRC cases, this case is representative of all such incidents where victims remain without closure for crimes that happened decades ago,” Salga President added.

“This case is also indicative of the almost total disregard by the South African government for the recommendations made by the TRC. To date, very few perpetrators of apartheid-era crimes have been held accountable before the courts. This is despite the TRC handing over approximately 500 missing person cases and 300 other cases for possible prosecution to the NPA, following the completion of the Amnesty Committee’s work. The delays in prosecutions deny victims an important form of reparation – accountability.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa endorsed the decision of Salga’s NEC that elected Simelani-Nkadimeng who succeeded Parks Tau after serving as her deputy.

“I take my appointment as President of Salga as an affirmation and a sign of confidence from my peers who serves with me in the national executive committee. I am humble servant of the people who always tries to afford our people an opportunity to air their views so I can truly understand what are their challenges. I have been raised by very strong woman who emphasized the principle of Botho and hardwork,” she said.

According to Simelani-Nkadimeng the White Paper on local government placed the establishment of District Municipalities in the country as coordinator of services that must be rolled out by local municipalities. She said however that they have not been performing this function entirely except for water provision. “I intend to re-ignite those 44 District in the country to amongst others; champions of capacity building in local municipalities, create and develop district economy to make our people’s lives vibrant and in that way they will be contributing to job creation and fighting poverty. Build Rural Roads particularly those that are utilized by our communities in their day to day lives,” She said.

“I am here to fulfil a duty of serving the people of South Africa. I don’t need to be powerful, I must just be a humble servant who must understand the task at hand and dedication herself to fulfilling the mandate of Local Government. I was raised by politically conscious father who taught us the importance of participating in the struggle for the emancipation and freedom of our people. I am today a leader because of those grass-rooted teachings.”

Thipa Selala, spokesperson of Polokwane Municipality who congratulated Simelani-Nkadimeng said: “Her election comes at a critical time when local government is experiencing difficult challenges. With that in mind, Polokwane Municipality is confident that she has the right experience and leadership capacity to carry out and accomplish the demanding mandate that has been put on her shoulders and her leadership collective at the country’s behest.”

“Polokwane Municipality is proud of her achievements in the national and international footprint on local government and wishes her the best in her new national role. Polokwane is destined to benefit immensely from her national and international leadership and experience on local governance.”

By Mpho Dube

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