To: All Media
ATT: News Editors, Human Rights Reporters
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, 15 August 2023
COSAS 4 Matter Goes to Trial
Press Statement issued by the Foundation for Human Rights and the Legal Resources Centre
On 21 August 2023, the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg will commence with the trial into the murder of Eustice ‘Bimbo’ Madikela, Peter “Ntshingo” Matabane, Fanyana Nhlapo and the attempted murder of Zandisile Musi in 1982. The four anti-apartheid activists were members of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) and were collectively known as the ‘COSAS 4’. The trial will run from 21 August 2023 until 1 September 2023, and will be heard by Judge Mahalelo.
Christiaan Siebert Rorich and Thlomedi Ephraim Mfalapitsa are the accused in the matter. They are charged with kidnapping, murder and crimes against humanity of murder and apartheid (read with the section 232 of the Constitution) for unlawfully and intentionally killing the three students, in the context of “a systemic attack or elimination of political opponents of the apartheid regime”.
This trial is both historical and significant – it will be the first time that charges under international law, specifically the crime against humanity of murder and the crime against humanity of apartheid, will be brought against two individuals in a South African court. To the best of our knowledge, it is also the first time that the charge of the crime against humanity of apartheid is being brought anywhere in the world. These charges are being introduced under Section 232 of the Constitution, which recognises customary international law as law in the Republic, unless it is inconsistent with the Constitution or an Act of Parliament.
Although the masterminds behind the killing including Jan Carel Coetzee, Willem Frederick Schoon and Abraham Grobbelaar were refused amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for the killing of the COSAS 4 in 1999, the democratic state failed to hold them accountable. They went to their graves without having faced justice.
Christiaan Sebert Rorich and Thlomedi Ephraim Mfalapitsa were also denied amnesty by the TRC in 1999. Twenty-one years later, in 2021 with the assistance of the Foundation for Human Rights and Webber Wentzel attorneys (who represented some of the COSAS 4 families at the time), were the families able to enter substantive discussions with the SAPS Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigations and the National Prosecuting Authority which led to the prosecution of Mfalapitsa (accused 1) and Rorich (accused 2) in August 2021. All the other suspects have passed on. Both accused are well advanced in age.
Since the indictment of two accused in 2021, the matter has faced several challenges and postponements, including litigation to oppose the SAPS’s refusal to pay the reasonable legal costs of Rorich’s defence. The High Court found that as a former officer of the Security Branch of the South African Police, Rorich is entitled to state support. By refusing to cover the cost of Rorich’s defence, the SAPS was contributing to continued delays in the commencement of the trial.
The 22-year long wait for justice and closure has caused immeasurable harm to the families of the COSAS 4. Zandile Musi, the only survivor of the 1982 attack passed away in 2021 without seeing justice done.
The commencement of the trial will be the first huge step for the family members in seeking justice to come to terms with the murder and injury of their loved ones.
The Factsheet: The Case of the COSAS 4 can be accessed HERE.
For media enquiries contact:
Mx Kholekile Mnisi, Media and Communications Specialist, FHR at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0656130977
Eustice ‘Bimbo’ Madikela, Peter “Ntshingo” Matabane, Fanyana Nhlapo and Zandisile Musi were students from Kagiso, a township in Gauteng, and members of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS), an organisation which was affiliated with the then banned African National Congress (ANC). They are collectively known as the COSAS 4. Madikela, Matabane and Nhlapo were killed, and Musi was seriously injured on 15 February 1982 after they had been lured by two ‘askaris’ (informers), Joe Mamasela and Thlomedi Ephraim Mfalapitsa, to an old pump house in which Security Branch officers had planted explosives. Mfalapitsa had previously been a member of the ANC’s military branch, uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) was a close friend of Musi’s brothers. Unbeknown to Musi, Mfalapitsa had later turned ‘askari’ and joined the South African Police (SAP) as a Security Branch officer. Thinking that Mfalapitsa was still with the ANC, Musi had informed him that he and his three comrades wished to join the ANC in exile for military training. Jan Carel Coetzee and Willem Frederick Schoon (both now deceased) ordered Mfalapitsa to lure Musi and the other 3 students to a pump house at a mine near Krugersdorp, under the false pretence that he intended to provide them with military training.
Some of the Security Branch officers involved in the murder of Madikela, Matabane and Nhlapo, and serious injury of Musi, appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Carel Coetzee, Willem Frederick Schoon, Abraham Grobbelaar, Christiaan Siebert Rorich and Ephraim Mfalapitsa were denied amnesty. The case is one of those which was referred by the TRC to the NPA for investigation and prosecution. Although he did not apply for amnesty, Mamasela testified in camera at a Section 29 investigative hearing, before the TRC. In August 2021, Mfalapitsa and Rorich were charged with kidnapping and murder, and charges of crimes against humanity of murder and the crime against humanity of apartheid were subsequently added to the indictment in November 2021.
To access the full record of papers in the COSAS 4 matter see: https://unfinishedtrc.co.za/future-cases/#COSAS-3-Zandisile-Musi
For more information contact:
For more information on the “Unfinished Business of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission” Programme that is run by the Foundation for Human Rights consult our website: https://unfinishedtrc.co.za .
Foundation for Human Rights
The Foundation for Human Rights is a non-profit human rights organization that works to protect and promote human rights in South Africa. The FHR was established in 1996 to address the historical legacy of apartheid, and to promote and advance transformation and human rights based on the new Constitution. The FHR implements four main human rights programs: the Gender Based Violence and Femicide Programme (known as “The Masibambisane Programme”), the Unfinished Business of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Programme, the Community Engagement Programme, and the Access to Justice Programme. Over the last two decades, the 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.
Legal Resources Centre
The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) is a human rights organisation, which was established in in 1979 to use the law as an instrument of justice, challenging the legal structures of apartheid. Using strategic litigation and advocacy, the LRC works to address the structural and intergenerational economic and social injustice in South Africa with a focus on land and education rights. The COSAS 4 families are represented by the LRC since February 2023. Previously, they were represented by Webber Wentzel Pro-Bono Department.