Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu has asked why it has taken South African Security operatives so long to charge those involved in the killing of the young freedom fighter and activist Nokuthula Simelane in 1983.
Nokuthula Simelane was a 23-year-old university graduate and was a courier for Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK)‚ the armed wing of the African National Congress who moved between Swaziland and South Africa but was allegedly abducted and brutally tortured by the Security Branch of the former South African Police in 1983 and was never seen again.
South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority had earlier in the week announced plans to charge the men who connived with the police to torture and murder the 23-year-old activist. The commission had heard and finalized Simelane’s case in 2001, handed it over to prosecutors the following year, but they only acted after the young woman’s family approached the court.
Tutu welcomed the idea but asked “What has taken them so long? Why did the authorities turn their backs on the family of Nokuthula‚ and so many other families‚ for so many years?
“While I welcome the decision of the NPA to proceed in the case of Nokuthula Simelane‚ I emphasise that the decision is long overdue‚ and only occurred because the family sought relief from the High Court compelling the NPA to act. Hopefully it marks a turning point for the NPA. I urge the NPA to double its efforts in pursuing all outstanding cases from the past with vigour. Other families should not have to go to court to secure justice
“Why did the pleas of her family fall on deaf ears for decades? Why did it take a substantial application to the High Court to get the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) and the police to do their jobs? Why did successive South African governments take extraordinary steps to obstruct the course of justice?” he quarried.
He said he hoped this would mark a turning point for the prosecuting authority which according to him has only pursued “less than a handful” of more than 300 apartheid-era cases the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended for legal action in 2002.
“We know from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings that she suffered terribly at the hands of the Security Branch. We know that she refused to collaborate with the forces of Apartheid. For this she paid the ultimate price.
The police say they only succeeded in “turning” Simelane through the torture, convincing her to work as an informant against the African National Congress in neighboring Swaziland and claim that the anti-apartheid fighters might have killed Simelane themselves as her body was never found.