If you remember, in my third blog entry, “Now That’s A LOT of People,” I wrote about one of the cases I am working on. It involved three men who were implicated in the 1983 torture and murder of Nokuthula Simelane. In anticipation of a decision by the Nation Prosecuting Authority on whether they would prosecute the three perpetrators, we at Khulumani Support Group, took matters into our own hands.
Earlier this week, the national director of my organization asked me to write a letter to one of the murderers, Frederick Barnard Mong, on her behalf (please note that Mong is STILL working as a police officer). In this letter, I was tasked with asking Mong to reveal the location of Nokuthula’s remains. It has been 32 years since her disappearance and her family deserves the right to give her a proper burial. Writing this letter, I had no idea what to say. I had never written a letter to a murderer, led alone, requesting the return of human remains.
It took me nearly 2-3 hours to complete the one page letter. The goal was to convince this man to reveal the truth, but it was so difficult to maintain a tranquil voice throughout the letter. Nevertheless, I completed it (with help). I explained to Mr. Mong the importance of providing a proper burial, and the much needed closure it would bring to Nokuthula’s family. I announced that we knew of his guilt, and we only wished to retrieve her remains.
Our national director felt the letter was adequately written, and decided it should be delivered to Mong immediately. However, I was unaware that we would deliver the letter to Mong ourselves, and watch him read it! We drove for nearly an hour to Mong’s office in Vereeniging, South Africa. Initially, I thought the plan was to stand outside of his office and hold sign ups. It would be a peaceful demonstration, pressuring Mong to reveal the location of Nokuthula’s body. Instead, we walked into his office building and asked to speak to him.
I wasn’t sure if he would even be available, but he was. After a very short wait, a middle age white man kindly greeted us at the front desk. This was one of the men who was responsible for the brutal murder of a young black college student, and I was about to watch him read the letter that I wrote.
Once my national director introduced us all and stated why we were there, he invited us back to his office. We handed him the letter, and watched him read it. As he read the letter, he started to shake. You could tell he was incredibly nervous. His hands began to tremble, and he started tapping his foot rapidly. As he continued to read, he began to sweat profusely. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know whether he was going to completely snap, or just tell us what we wanted to hear.
Well, he did neither. After reading the letter, he looked at us and said he was a young man when this happened, and he only played a small part in her disappearance. He then immediately called his lawyer. I couldn’t understand what he said, because he was speaking in a different language (everyone speaks like 5 languages here), but my boss could understand. Apparently, he told his lawyer that we were there, and his lawyer told him to say nothing! The lawyer instructed Mong to remain silent and to tell us that he would call us later. So, we left.
The next morning, I found out that Mong’s lawyer called our national director, and he aggressively scorned us for going to Mong’s office. He called us unprofessional, and claimed my letter was full of lies. Well, it was clear that my letter was incredibly truthful, and it really affected Mong when he read it. I don’t feel pity for that man at all. He murdered a woman, and has yet to pay for it.
Well, it turns out that a new director of the NPA has been appointed, and he has reopened the Simelane case. Hopefully, there will be justice for Nokuthula Simelane! We just want to know...where is her body?