To: All Media
ATT: News Editors, Human Rights Reporters
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, 22 August 2023
COSAS 4 matter postponed
Press Statement issued by the Foundation for Human Rights and the Legal Resources Centre
On 21 August 2023, the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg postponed the commencement of the trial into the murder of Eustice ‘Bimbo’ Madikela, Ntshingo Mataboge, and Fanyana Nhlapo, and the attempted murder of Zandisile Musi. The four anti-apartheid activists were members of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS), collectively known as the ‘COSAS 4’.
The trial has been postponed to 22 January 2024.
Christiaan Siebert Rorich and Thlomedi Ephraim Mfalapitsa are charged with kidnapping, murder and crimes against humanity of murder and apartheid (read with the section 232 of the Constitution). They never received amnesty during the TRC process.
The international charges are brought in the context of “widespread or a systemic attack or elimination of political opponents of the apartheid regime”, and introduced through section 232 of the Constitution, which recognises customary international law as law in the Republic.
In addition to the extraordinarily long delay for the families seeing justice since 1982 – this trial is also significant as it will be the first time that charges under international law will be brought against two individuals in a South African court. These are charges of the crime against humanity of murder, and the crime against humanity of apartheid.
On 23 October 2023 the Court will hear an application by the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) to intervene as a friend of the court (amicus curiae).
While both the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) who is not opposing SALC’s amicus intervention, and SALC, were ready to proceed in the trial yesterday – the legal representatives for Mr Rorich sought and were granted this lengthy delay to oppose SALC’s amicus intervention.
The accused have already indicated they intend objecting to the international law charges. SALC is seeking leave to intervene to assist the Court by providing legal context on the competence of these international charges in our domestic criminal justice system.
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 close friend of Musi’s brothers in exile, who, like him, had been members of the ANC’s military branch, uMkhonto weSizwe (MK). Unbeknown to Musi, Mfalapitsa had later turned ‘askari’ and joined the South African Police (SAP) as a Security Branch officer. Mfalapitsa was ordered by his superiors in the Security Branch to lure Musi and the other 3 students to a pump house at a mine near Krugersdorp, under the false pretense 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 Community-Advice Offices 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. Some of the COSAS 4 families are represented by the LRC since February 2023. Previously, they were represented by Webber Wentzel Pro-Bono Department.