Press Release by the Foundation for Human Rights and Webber Wentzel
JUSTICE FOR THE COSAS 4 FAMILIES
24 August 2021
Family members of the COSAS 4, have welcomed the news that finally those responsible for the death of three of the COSAS 4 who were murdered by the Security Branch in February 1982, more than 40 years, ago would be prosecuted. Yesterday, on 23 August 2021 the High Court (per Judge Mahalelo) had to certify whether the matter is ready for trial as the matter is currently in pre-trial proceedings. The trial date proposed by the State and the Defence is 4 October 2021 and, they predict that the trial would run for five days. However, in light of some issues raised by the court, the Court had to postpone the matter again for Friday, 27 August 2021 at 10h00, for the State and the Defence to address those issues.
On 15 February 1982, three young students, known as the COSAS 4, 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. The COSAS 4 were members of the Congress of the South African Students, who were lured into an old discarded pumphouse by the askaris (informers), Joe Mamasela and Thlomedi Ephraim Mfalapitsa, under the guise that they would be given training on how to use certain weapons. Joe Mamasela pretended to be a taxi driver hired by Mfalapitsa. He drove the four students to the pumphouse. According to Mamasela, Mfalapitsa then escorted the students to the place where explosives were planted. Members of the Security Branch rigged the pumphouse with explosives, 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 some of the perpetrators applied for amnesty before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
The families of the COSAS 4 have been supported in their quest for justice by the Foundation for Human Rights and the Pro-Bono Department of Webber Wentzel as well as the investigator retained by the Foundation, Brigadier Cliffy Marion who have been exerting pressure on the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to prosecute all those perpetrators who appeared before the Amnesty Committee and were refused amnesty.
While the families and the legal team are grateful to the NPA and Advocate Mlotshwa for ensuring that this case finally comes to court, it remains of great concern that only the Askari Thomedi Ephraim Mfalapitsa appeared in court on Friday 20 August 2021, where he was charged with three counts of murder. Those responsible for the murder of the COSAS 4, included former Security Branch officers Carel Coetzee, Willem Frederick Schoon, Abraham Grobbelaar, Christiaan Siebert Rorich and Mfalapitsa as revealed by the TRC in May 1999. All five were denied amnesty and the case was referred to the NPA for further investigation and prosecution. Shockingly the NPA sat on the case without taking any action for some 21 years despite knowing the identity of the perpetrators. We believe that it would be a travesty of justice if only Mfalapitsa is singled out for prosecution while his handlers who gave the instructions and planned the entire incident are not held to account for their command role in the murders. The sole indictment of Mfalapitsa reinforces the racial and power stereotypes that characterised the apartheid regime. The askaris – who were often tortured to turn them into informers for the state, would bear the sole responsibility for the serious apartheid-era crimes.
For media enquiries contact:
Lindiwe Sibiya, Media and Communication Officer, FHR at email@example.com and 082 634 7154
For more information about the FHR’s Unfinished Business of the TRC Programme contact:
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. Moray Hathorn who acts for the families is the senior attorney and human rights activist who 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.