To: All Media
ATT: News Editors, Human Rights Reporters
For Immediate Release
Date: 06 June 2023
Repeated delays in the Nokuthula Simelane’s matter means no justice for the family
Press Statement by the Foundation for Human Rights and Webber Wentzel
The matter of the murder and enforced disappearance of the MK-operative Nokuthula Simelane is facing further delays due to the claims by one of the accused, Willem Coetzee, that he is unfit to stand trial. On 12-14 June 2023, the Gauteng High Court Pretoria will hear the section 77(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act inquiry into Coetzee’s fitness to stand trial.
The Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) and the Webber Wentzel Pro Bono team representing the Simelane family in its decades-long quest for justice, are deeply concerned with the repeated delays of the criminal trial of Willem Coetzee and Anton Pretorius, the former Security Branch Officers who are the accused in the matter. The two other accused, Msebenzi Radebe and Frederick Mong, died in 2019 and 2021, respectively, without standing trial.
Nokuthula Simelane was a young student and an MK operative of the African National Congress, who was abducted, brutally tortured and forcibly disappeared at the hands of members of the Soweto Security Branch of the South African Police in 1983. Her family has never seen her again; neither has her body been discovered.
Since the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) indicted the four accused in the Nokuthula Simelane matter on 14 March 2016, the trial has faced countless postponements. Initially, the case was delayed by the South African Police Services (SAPS) refusal to pay the legal costs of defence of the accused, former Security Branch Officers of the SAP, and other interlocutory applications brought by the accused. The family had to intervene in these proceedings. The court eventually ruled that the SAPS, as the successor in title to the SAP, was obliged to pay the reasonable legal costs of the accused.
More delay was caused by the claim in June 2022 by Coetzee’s legal team that he was mentally unfit to stand trial based on a “preliminary” medical report, which the NPA did not challenge, even though it was submitted barely 24 hours before the trial was due to commence. Coetzee was subsequently deemed fit to stand trial by a state psychiatrist in December 2022. Since the defence team indicated that they wished to challenge the finding of the state psychiatrist, the case was further postponed to 9 February 2023 and then 12 to 14 June 2023 at the request of Coetzee’s legal team and with the agreement of the NPA for an inquiry in terms of section 77(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act.
These continued delays cause immeasurable harm to Nokuthula’s elderly mother and other family members who have been waiting for justice since 1983. While the NPA cannot be blamed for all the delays in this matter, it has not been seen by the Simelane family and the general public as doing enough to protect the interests of victims and the interest of justice in the case.
To access the full record of papers in the Simelane case, see:
For media inquiries contact
Mx Kholekile Mnisi, Media and Communications Specialist, FHR, at email@example.com / 0656130977 or Lindiwe Sithole, Media and Communication Officer, FHR, at firstname.lastname@example.org / 0826347154
For more information, contact:
For more information on the “Unfinished Business of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission” Programme run by the Foundation for Human Rights, consult our website:
Foundation for Human Rights
The Foundation for Human Rights is a non-profit human rights organisation 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 Masibambisane – GBFV Free Zones 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 significant role in promoting the rights of victims of apartheid crimes by supporting the implementation of the TRC’s recommendations, including justice and accountability for past crimes, reparations, and access to the TRC archives.
Webber Wentzel Pro-Bono Department
Webber Wentzel Pro Bono team, headed by Ms Odette Geldenhuys, provides free legal services to marginalised and vulnerable individuals and groups. Attorneys from the Webber Wentzel Pro Bono Unit have acted as legal representatives in several post-TRC matters and have played an instrumental role in moving the cases forward. The post-TRC cases that Webber Wentzel currently supports include the matters of Imam Haron, Nokuthula Simelane, Caiphus Nyoka and Adriaano Louis Bambo. In addition, Webber Wentzel acted for the families of Ahmed Timol, COSAS 4 and Dr Neil Aggett. Since February 2023, Moray Hathorn from the Legal Resources Centre has represented Aggett and COSAS 4 families.