News / South Africa

Robinson Nqola
2 minute read
8 Jun 2018
3:04 pm

Ministry to pay for defence of three officers on apartheid murder charge

Robinson Nqola

The officers were arrested in February 2016, but the case was delayed when the men filed an application for the court to compel the police to pay for their defence.

Nokuthula Simelane. Photo: SA History Online

The Pretoria High Court has ordered that police pay the legal fees for three apartheid-era officers charged with the murder of an uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) activist in 1983, Pretoria East Rekord reports.

The three – Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretorius and Frederick Mong – allegedly abducted, detained, tortured and murdered then 23-year-old MK member Nokuthula Simelane.

READ MORE: Apartheid cops’ trial delayed

They were arrested in February 2016, but the case was delayed when the men filed an application for the court to compel the police to pay for their defence.

They have been out on R5 000 bail.

The retired officers first approached the ministry, and when it rejected their application they went to court.

On Tuesday, Judge Cynthia Pretoria found the rejection was biased and the police had followed unfair procedure to arrive at the decision.

“The process was not impartial, and there is thus a reasonable apprehension of bias against the three applicants.”

The pending trial would be the first apartheid-era murder trial to come before a South African court since 2007, SA History reports.

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 Truth and Reconciliation Commission that 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.

The ruling now paves way for the case to go to trial, but it is not yet clear when the trial will take place.

Additional reporting by The Citizen

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