I finally completed my first assignment! As you could imagine, I was a little nervous, awaiting feedback from my supervisor. I was assigned the task of writing a paper on a case we are working on that is currently before the High Court of South Africa. It wasn’t your typical legal memo, however, I was asked to provide a section providing my recommendation to the High Court on how I think they should rule.
Here is a little bit of background about the case:
This case involves the 1982 disappearance of a young woman named Nokuthula Simelane. Nokuthula was a young college student from Swaziland, who also served as a secret operative for the military branch of the ANC, called the MK. The MK was an organization that acted as an armed force, fighting against the apartheid regime, in hopes of liberating the people of South Africa.
In 1982, while on a mission in Johannesburg, Nokuthula Simelane was kidnapped by the former apartheid security police force. In attempts to retrieve information from her, she was tortured for 5 weeks. During those 5 weeks, Nokuthula was subjected to electrocution, water boarding, and severe beatings. Witnesses testified that members of the police force admitted to shooting and burying Nokuthula at an undisclosed location. Her body has never been recovered, and the men who committed this crime have never been brought to justice.
In 1995, the Truth and Reconciliations Commission (TRC) of South Africa was established. To put it simply, victims of violations against humanity or their family members were able to testify before this court to have their story heard. Individuals who were implicated in committing these crimes through these stories were required to apply for amnesty. In applying for amnesty, perpetrators were required to provide full disclosure about what they had done. If it were determined that they were indeed truthful, those men would be granted amnesty and would be free from prosecution for their crimes. If they lied, the court would recommend the immediate prosecution, by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), of those individuals for the crimes they committed. This court was created in hopes of starting a process in which victims of the apartheid regime could begin to heal and move passed the atrocities they faced. However, as you can see, this was a pretty sweet deal for the perpetrators. All they had to do was tell the truth, and they could remain free.
Well, the case of Nokuthula Simelane was brought before the TRC, and in 2001, the TRC found that 3 of the men most likely responsible for the ultimate death of Nokuthula were untruthful in their testimonies. Accordingly, the TRC recommended that they be prosecuted for their crimes. The NPA, however, has refused to press charges. These three men, Willem Coetzee, Anton Pretorius, and Frederick Barnard Mong, are currently free to live their normal lives in South Africa.
In refusing to press charges, the NPA has given a number of excuses, none of which are legitimate enough to justify this serious miscarriage of justice. With that said, Nokuthula’s sister has recently filed papers within the High Court of South Africa, demanding the NPA prosecute the three men responsible for Nokuthula’s death. A decision has not yet been made.
Now that you have some background, it was pretty difficult to work through this case, given the sensitivity and pure amount of the information that was given to me. But after a week or so, I was done. This case is representative of hundreds, if not thousands, of cases that the NPA simply refuses to take forward. The people of this country cannot move forward, if the system that was meant to protect them refuses to do so. Hopefully the High Court of South Africa makes the right decision. I will keep you all updated.
Oh yeah! I almost forgot. After reading my paper, my supervisor, the National Director of Khulumani Support Group, let me know that she intends to distribute my paper to our organization’s members, which includes around 104,000 people! Now that’s a lot of people!