South Africa

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Alleged Special Branch ‘A-team’ member faces charge over 1988 KZN murder of young activist

Alleged Special Branch ‘A-team’ member faces charge over 1988 KZN murder of young activist
UDF leaders addressing the media at a historic press conference in Cape Town on 4 February 1990. From left: Archie Gumede, Murphy Morobe, Terror Lekota, Moses Mayekiso and Popo Molefe. (Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport archives)

In the latest investigation into apartheid-era police killings, a special NPA unit is to charge Wesley ‘Matiri’ Madonsela in connection with the 1989 murder of UDF activist Siphelele Nxumalo in a Durban township.

Very few people in Chesterville township – about 9km outside Durban’s CBD – remember the volatile period around February 1989 when 17-year-old United Democratic Front (UDF) activist Siphelele Nxumalo was brutally killed.

Justice, it seems, is finally catching up with at least one of those allegedly responsible for his untimely demise, even if it is more than 30 years after the incident.

On Monday, 16 October, Wesley “Matiri” Madonsela, who allegedly worked with the infamous apartheid-era police Security Branch, will appear in the Durban Regional Court to face charges for Nxumalo’s murder.

The case is likely to draw the attention of human rights groups that have been calling for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to act on apartheid-era crimes, many of which came before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) but were never prosecuted.

The case follows a number of reopened inquests into the deaths of anti-apartheid activists such as Ahmed Timol, Niel Aggett and Imam Abdullah Haron, that all found that the police were responsible for their deaths.

In such cases, those found to be responsible had often died. Following the reopened Timol inquest, apartheid-era security police officer João Rodrigues faced charges related to the activist’s murder. He died before the case was concluded.

Read more in Daily Maverick: After 54 years, Imam Abdullah Haron’s family hears the truth behind activist’s death at hands of apartheid police

The young Nxumalo died from multiple gunshot wounds. At the time, he was an activist with the UDF, which was closely linked to the then-exiled ANC.

Madonsela is alleged to have been part of a group called the “A-team” that worked with the Natal Security Branch, which operated in Chesterville during apartheid.

Natasha Ramkisson-Kara, KZN NPA spokesperson, said: “This case reveals the atrocities committed against political activists by the Security Branch. It also demonstrates the NPA’s commitment to holding those accountable for these atrocities while the victim’s families find closure and see justice.”

The case has been brought to court by a special NPA unit that has recently intensified investigations into apartheid-era crimes.

Following the findings of the reopened inquest into the death of Imam Haron, on 10 October, Western Cape NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said:Over the last couple of years, the NPA, working together with the DPCI [Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation], has focused on enhancing capacity and streamlining processes to ensure effective handling of TRC cases and reopening and pursuing priority cases. Sixteen prosecutors and 39 DPCI investigators have been appointed within the various divisions to deal exclusively with TRC matters, to work with families and to investigate cases, inter alia, of murder, torture and disappearances.”

Phindile Nxumalo, Siphelele’s sister and only surviving immediate family member, said the death had devastated her family.

“We were informed when the suspect was arrested and they [investigators] have been keeping us [in] the loop. We are aware that the case is taking place tomorrow. But I cannot say more for now,” she said.

When Daily Maverick visited the township on Sunday, many younger residents said they were not aware of such incidents, while many elderly said they hardly remembered Nxumalo. The few who knew about the incident didn’t know that the matter was now headed for the court.

A 58-year-old grandmother of eight children, who was a neighbour of the family, said she remembered Siphelele vividly.

“He was not loud, but he was very brave. His death affected his family severely. It was so sad.” DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Bad yes.

    Currently 72 people ate murdered every day in South Africa.

    Our ANC government is directly culpable.

    Who is holding them to account?

    • Ben Harper says:

      And they continue to cover up and silence discussions on the atrocities carried out on those that opposed them in places like Camp Quatro – an inconvenient truth they can’t afford to have revealed. I wonder how many if those they killed were blamed on “apartheid forces”

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