Maverick Citizen

APARTHEID-ERA CRIME

Four Security Branch police officers charged with 1985 murder of MK member

Four Security Branch police officers charged with 1985 murder of MK member
(Photo: Gallo Images / Roger Sedres)

An Umkhonto weSizwe member, Jameson Ngoloyi Mngomezulu, was detained by members of the apartheid security forces. He died after being severely tortured.

Four former police officers from the apartheid era have been charged with the 1985 murder of Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) member Jameson Ngoloyi Mngomezulu.  

Gerhardus Stephanus Schoon (82), Paul Jacobus van Dyk (76), Frederick Johannes Pienaar (77) and Douw Gerbrandt Willemse (63) were indicted on charges of murder and kidnapping in the Pongola Magistrates’ Court last week.

Only Schoon and Van Dyk showed up in court. Pienaar provided a medical certificate, while Willemse didn’t provide a reason for not attending and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

“The warrant of arrest for Pienaar was stayed but the warrant of arrest for Willemse was issued forthwith,” said NPA KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson-Kara.

“The matter was postponed to 18 April 2024, to finalise issues of legal representation.”

‘Severely tortured’

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) final report detailed the killing of Mngomezulu.

“On 1 June 1985, three members of the Mngomezulu refugee community in southern Swaziland, Mr Jameson Ngoloyi Mngomezulu, Mr David Mkethwa Mngomezulu and Mr Leonard Loghudu Mngomezulu, were abducted and forcibly taken to South Africa. The latter two were detained and tortured for information. After six weeks, they were released and returned to Swaziland.

“Jameson Mngomezulu was not so fortunate. An experienced MK commander who had been trained in North Africa in the 1960s, the security police believed he was involved in infiltrating MK guerrillas into South Africa. He died as a result of being severely tortured,” reads the TRC report.

It said apartheid state assassin Eugene de Kock authorised the abductions, which were carried out by Vlakplaas operatives or askaris, including Willemse, Warrant Officer Gerhardus C Beeslaar, Almond Nofemela, Corporal Thapelo Mbelo and Captain Paul van Dyk, and Detective Warrant Officer Johannes Koole of the Security Branch. 

 

vlakplaas eugene de kock

Apartheid arch-assasin Eugene de Kock. (Photo: Leon Botha)

It said Pienaar, Schoon and Beeslaar were involved in torturing Mngomezulu and the blowing up of his body. Some of those implicated had applied unsuccessfully for amnesty at the TRC.  

Ramkisson-Kara said, “The state is alleging that Schoon and his co-assailants together with askaris and other members of the South African Police Service, acted collectively in the commission of these offences.

“At the time of the commission of these offences, Schoon was the commander of the Jozini Security Branch of the SAPS, Van Dyk and Willemse were members of the Security Branch of the SAPS based in Vlakplaas and Pienaar was a member of the Security Branch based in Piet Retief.”

‘A semblance of closure’

Imtiaz Cajee, an author, activist, and nephew of murdered anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol said the reopening of apartheid-era cases was long overdue.

“We know the history. These cases should have been opened in 2003. The reopening of cases must be welcomed, and the NPA, the relevant investigating officers, and authorities must be commended. From the perspective of families, they want to see justice and a semblance of closure in their lifetime,” Cajee said.

He added that those accused of apartheid-era crimes had not had their day in court due to the time it has taken to reopen such cases and the refusal of those involved to cooperate.

“I’ve witnessed first-hand in the Timol inquest with [João] Rodrigues. He never had his day in court because the matter was prolonged for three years and eventually he passed on. In the Dr [Hoosen] Haffejee case, we had a similar matter. The interrogator died; only then did the NPA reopen the inquest,” Cajee said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The death of Joao Rodrigues: Now we will never know the truth about the death in detention of my uncle Ahmed Timol

“It reminds us that apartheid-era perpetrators, even in their old age, don’t want to take accountability for the crimes they committed and they use the same Constitution to prolong these matters, medical certificates, absence, and all to avoid taking responsibility. This begs the question: what rights do the affected families have?”

Cajee said the cases should be used as a tool to “conscientise and build”, not to sow hate, or hate speech. He called on those in power to lead with integrity.

“Reopening inquests like this and pursuing justice should remind those in power that their comrades like Mngomezulu who died so they can hold political power today, the honour is on them to rule with integrity. We owe it to women and men like Mngomezulu. They did not die to have leaders looting state coffers,” Cajee said. 

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola recently approved the reopening of the inquest into the deaths of the Cradock Four — anti-apartheid activists Matthew Goniwe, Sparrow Mkonto, Fort Calata and Sicelo Mhlauli who were killed in 1985. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Rob Fisher says:

    A bit of pre election advertising for the ANC?
    It’s still all the fault of APARTHEID?

  • Miles Japhet says:

    Interesting timing – electioneering perhaps?

  • Greeff Kotzé says:

    ““Reopening inquests like this and pursuing justice should remind those in power that their comrades like Mngomezulu who died so they can hold political power today, the honour is on them to rule with integrity.”

    It should. But it won’t.

  • louis viljee says:

    Eugene de Kock is the only one who has had to atone for the sins of apartheid. Much pain persists in South Africa for failing to fully acknowledge its past and to deal with it. It enables many to continue clinging to their apartheid perspectives and has failed to lead us into a real post-apartheid present. It’s ironic that the ANC must take much blame for this situation persisting, as for so much else besides.

  • I don’t know… almost 40 years later. I’m not sure if this is justice seen as they weren’t even acting in their personal capacity. Can’t go after the state so go after the little guy?
    It seems to me that our present problems are too big, the current government has no clue how to solve them and they seem to have no desire to solve them either. So instead, they keep looking to the past for easy wins.
    It’s probably just me but History does not interest me (beyond knowing and acknowledging). I’m interested only in the present and future.

    • Skinyela Skinyela says:

      Nazis are still being pursued and brought to book for their deeds of more than 79 years ago.

      By the state vs little guy you mean the apartheid political leaders v police officers?

  • Heinrich Holt says:

    I support that justice should be served, even if it is after 40 years. That also happened after the 2nd World War. That should also be the case for violent and economic crime as both end in suffering of humans. Not sure if JZ and the Guptas will live that long though but hope springs eternal.

  • Vincent Britz says:

    Really now? How about all the bombings that happened by the hands of the ANC? Why are they not paying for their crimes?? Can be guaranteed that a few of our politicians hands are dirty for those bombings that killed a lot of white people!!

  • What about McBride who bombed restaurants?

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