To: All Media
Attn: News Editors, Human Rights Reporters
For Immediate Release
23 January 2024
COSAS FOUR TRIAL POSTPONED AGAIN
Issued by the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC)
There was another postponement yesterday in the Johannesburg High Court in the historic trial for the 1982 kidnapping and murder of the “Cosas 4”, of Eustice “Bimbo” Madikela, Peter “Ntshingo” Matabane and Fanyana Nhlapo who were killed by the Security Branch of the South African Police (SAP) in a planted bomb explosion, and of Zandisile Musi who was severely injured.
The two accused, Christiaan Siebert Rorich and Thlomedi Ephraim Mfalapitsa, are the only surviving implicated perpetrators of the group allegedly responsible for the kidnapping and murder of the Cosas 4. Rorich was employed by the State and worked for the Security Branch, and Mfalapitsa was an ‘Askari’. Neither of them received amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
Yesterday, despite the fact that the High Court already ordered in May 2022 that the State is obliged to pay for Rorich’s legal fees as a former policeman employed by the State, the State Attorney’s office and the Rorich’s defence team failed to make the timeous fee arrangements, which only concluded on Friday last week as reported by the parties in open court yesterday. Rorich’s defence team used the delay in concluding the defence fee arrangements to engineer a postponement and further delay at yesterday’s hearing. On the assurance by Rorich’s attorney that his counsel is available for the trial to proceed on 14 May, the trial was postponed ‘marked’ final.
This matter was previously on the roll on 23 October 2023 for the court to hear an application brought by the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) seeking leave to intervene as a friend of the court. Because of the stated lack of availability of Rorich’s counsel to oppose that application before yesterday’s scheduled trial date, SALC withdrew its application on record specifically to avoid any further undue delays.
The Cosas 4 matter is one of several hundred cases that were handed over by the TRC to the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) at the conclusion of the TRC process, and which have been beset by delays in investigations and prosecutions as a result of political interference in the resolution of these matters.
In addition to the extraordinarily long delay for the families seeking justice, this trial is also significant because it is also the first time that criminal charges under international law have been included in a South African court. Rorich and Mfalapitsa are charged with kidnapping, murder and crimes against humanity of murder and apartheid (read with the section 232 of the Constitution). 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.
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 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, Joe 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
The Cosas 4 families are supported by the Foundation for Human Rights and represented by the Legal Resources Centre on a watching brief in the criminal trial.
For more information contact:
Gina Snyman (Foundation for Human Rights) at email@example.com or
Moray Hathorn (Legal Resources Centre) at firstname.lastname@example.org or see the “Unfinished Business of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission” Programme website at https://unfinishedtrc.co.za. This programme is run by the Foundation for Human Rights.