Press Release by the Foundation for Human Rights and Webber Wentzel
9 September 2020
The families of three members of the COSAS 4, who were murdered by the Security Branch in 1982, have filed an application with the Krugersdorp Magistrate’s Court seeking an order for the disinterment and forensic examination of the bodies.
More than 38 years ago, on 15 February 1982, three young students Eustice Madikela, Ntshingo Mataboge, Fanyana Nhlapo were brutally killed, while Zandisile Musi was seriously injured by members of the Security Branch of the South African Police. These men were members of the Congress of the South African Students (COSAS) and became known as the COSAS 4. The COSAS 4 were lured into an old discarded pumphouse by an Askari (informer), Thlomedi Ephraim Mfalapitsa, under the guise that they would be given training on how to use certain weapons. The Security Branch had rigged the pumphouse with explosives and once Mfalapitsa left the pumphouse was locked and the explosives were detonated. The murders were covered up by the Security Branch and remained concealed until certain of the perpetrators applied for amnesty before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
The families were told by the police that the COSAS 4 had blown themselves up. They were buried without a post-mortem examination, even though their deaths were obviously from unnatural causes. The law requires a post-mortem examination in deaths arising from unnatural causes. It is also a legal requirement that an inquest be held in an unnatural death where there is no prosecution. In more than 38 years there has been no inquest or prosecution, notwithstanding the fact that the perpetrators are well known to the authorities.
The actual cause of their deaths was revealed only at the TRC in May 1999 when former Security Branch officers Carel Coetzee, Willem Frederick Schoon, Abraham Grobbelaar, Christiaan Siebert Rorich and the Askari, Mfalapitsa applied for amnesty. They were denied amnesty and the case was referred to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for further investigation and prosecution. The NPA has sat on the case without taking any action for some 21 years. It was one of the approximately 400 apartheid era cases suppressed through political interference.
On 2 September 2020, the Pro-Bono Department of Webber Wentzel filed an application on behalf of Maide Selebi (sister of Eustice Madikele) and Patience Nhlapo (cousin of Fanyana Nhlapo), which seeks an order from the Krugersdorp Magistrate Court requiring the Mogale City Local Municipality, with the support of the SAPS and the NPA’s Missing Persons Task Unit, to exhume the bodies of the deceased. The exhumation will allow for a post-mortem examination of the bodies by the Roodepoort Forensic Pathology Services.
The legal representatives of the families, Webber Wentzel, along with the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR), have been liaising with the NPA since October last year. Despite three meetings and multiple communications with the NPA and SAPS there has been little movement. In order to avoid further delay, the families have now taken matters into their own hands and initiated the first necessary legal step to lay the basis for a prosecution of the known perpetrators.
To access the full set of the legal papers filed with the Magistrate’s Court click here.
The TRC’s Human Rights Violation hearing on the murder of the COSAS 4 can be viewed on this link.
Foundation for Human Rights
The Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) is a grant making institution supporting civil society organizations in South Africa and the region that implement programmes which promote and protect human rights. The Foundation’s mission is to address the historical legacy of apartheid, to promote and advance transformation in South Africa and to build a human rights culture using the Constitution as a tool. Over the last two decades FHR has played a major role in promoting the rights of victims of apartheid crimes through supporting the recommendations of the TRC including justice and accountability for past crimes, reparations and access to the TRC archives.
Webber Wentzel Pro-Bono Department
Webber Wentzel Pro-Bono Department provides free legal services to poor and vulnerable members of the public through its pro bono legal practice group headed by senior attorney and human rights activist, Moray Hathorn. Moray Hathorn has served as attorney in several high-profile human rights cases including the reopened inquests into the murder of Ahmed Timol and Dr Neil Aggett.
For Media inquiries:
Lindiwe Sibiya – 082 634 7154