TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
SUBMISSIONS - QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
DATE: 3 JUNE 1997
NAME: MATHEW SIMELANE
CASE: JB0280 - LEANDRA
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Simelane, can you hear me through your earphones?
MR SIMELANE: Yes, I can.
CHAIRPERSON: And could you please explain to us who is with you.
MR SIMELANE: The one seated by me is my wife.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. We would like to welcome you here. Please feel relaxed. Thank you very much for agreeing to come and also agreeing to be the first witness. It is always a difficult thing to do. Before I ask Tom Manthata to lead your evidence could I please ask you to stand and take the oath.
MATHEW SIMELANE: (Duly sworn in, states).
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. Mr Simelane, you are here today to tell us the story of, particularly of your daughter, Nokuthula, and I would ask Tom Manthata, please, to lead your evidence. Thank you.
MR MANTHATA: Mr Simelane and Mrs Simelane, you are welcome and should you at any stage find yourself choked by emotions, please take your time and take your time to relate this story. Mr Simelane, are you working?
MR SIMELANE: Yes, I am working.
MR MANTHATA: You are working. And Mrs Simelane?
MR SIMELANE: We work together.
MR MANTHATA: You are working together as what?
MR SIMELANE: We have a business, we own a business.
MR MANTHATA: You have got a business. And the children, are they still at school?
MR SIMELANE: Only one is at school.
MR MANTHATA: Only one is at school. Thank you. As it has been said already by the Chairperson, can you please tell us the story of your missing daughter, Nokuthula Simelane.
MR SIMELANE: Nokuthula disappeared in 1983. She was attending at the University of Swaziland. Just when we were preparing to go and attend her graduation, that is when we discovered that she has disappeared and nowhere to be found. We searched all over for Nokuthula and we never found Nokuthula. Even at the border we went to enquire if she has crossed and to no avail. Some in Swaziland said the ANC people sent her to the Republic and we went to the ANC people and they denied any knowledge of Nokuthula. We searched everywhere. Even the neighbouring countries like Botswana, we went to search for Nokuthula. No one came to the surface to tell us about Nokuthula. Even the policemen could not help us in that regard.
In 1985 we decided to approach the press. Her picture appeared in the newspaper and one police contacted us after seeing her picture on the newspaper and said he knew that girl, because he kept guard at that girl in Vlakplaas Police Station and the last time that police saw Nokuthula, Nokuthula was ill and she was severely and brutally tortured. The investigation stated afresh now and the matter was under investigation. The Investigating Officer, Neville Toms, investigated the issue further and until the final part of it, but they still could not give us any sound matter in as far as Nokuthula's issue is concerned. All what we want now are her remains so we could bury Nokuthula in a decent way. In our culture we bury people decently and we would like to do that.
Finally, we found out that the policemen who arrested her, two of them were suspended. That they were suspended because they were investigating this matter. That is Coetzee and Pretorius and the ones that we do not know are the other three, because all of them were five in number. We found out that they have applied for amnesty. Still when I heard about their application, amnesty application I heard that they applied, that they had kidnapped Nokuthula and tortured Nokuthula and that was the end. They never mentioned any other thing beside that. I would like to know even more. What happened to my daughter and after the torture what was done to her.
MR MANTHATA: Yes. Do you mind telling us the name of the police who tipped you after seeing the press coverage about the whereabouts of Nokuthula?
MR SIMELANE: I will not disclose the other name. We called the other one Mr X. The ones that came to my house, the officers, was Neville Toms and Captain Lisk.
MR MANTHATA: Thank you and what was Nokuthula doing at the University of Swaziland, that is study-wise?
MR SIMELANE: She was studying and enroled for B.Admin.
MR MANTHATA: And you did not know that she could have affiliated to ANC at the time?
MR SIMELANE: I suspected that, but she never made mention of that fact to me.
MR MANTHATA: What did you suspect, Mr Simelane?
MR SIMELANE: I suspected that the ANC was using her, because at one stage it was discovered in Swaziland that they were corresponding that were delivered at my brother-in-law's place. Those were in exile and the ANC members were using her to go to the Republic.
MR MANTHATA: When you approached ANC offices did they say they did not know where she had gone to or they said they did not know that she was a member of ANC?
MR SIMELANE: Often times than not it would be my wife going to the ANC offices and what she will tell me is that they will say we do not know, maybe her boyfriends know better. Some said she might be in Germany or West Germany. They never told us the truth.
MR MANTHATA: But finally, have they owned that she was in their camps, that is after all these press disclosures?
MR SIMELANE: After the newspaper issue some approached us and told us that they, she was there and she was being used and a very brave woman, but they never told us before the newspaper article.
MR MANTHATA: So you have said it that the torturers have since applied for amnesty and which means, what we need to know is where she was buried and, of course, how was she killed. Is this what you are saying?
MR SIMELANE: I want to know that.
MR MANTHATA: No further questions, Mr Simelane, back to the Chairperson.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, thank you Mr Manthata. I will ask the other Commissioners if they have any questions. Wynand.
MR MALAN: Thank you. Mr Simelane, just really one question and this relates to the suspended people in your statement. You say that two members of the police were suspended. You named them now as Coetzee and Pretorius.
MR SIMELANE: That is correct.
MR MALAN: You also gave us a copy of a news report in The Star of May five 1996 where reference is made to the suspension of these two people. The article quotes a spokesman of NCIS, Reg Crew and he says simply we have to treat them as suspects at this stage, referring to the two suspended people. Now this is a year and a month ago. Have you had any further information relating to developments here?
MR SIMELANE: No, all that I know is that they have applied for amnesty.
MR MALAN: Are you saying your information is that Coetzee and Pretorius applied for amnesty?
MR SIMELANE: Yes, those are the only two, they have applied for amnesty and the other three that I do not know their names.
MR MALAN: Were you informed that they applied for amnesty also in relation to Nokuthula's disappearance?
MR SIMELANE: Yes, they did notify me.
MR MALAN: Thank you.
CHAIRPERSON: Joyce. Mr Simelane and Mrs Simelane, I would like to just ask one more question. In the Sowetan story about Nokuthula they describe her as MK's Mata Hari. Do you have any doubts in your own mind that that was a description that fitted her and her activities?
MR SIMELANE: No, I do not have any doubts.
CHAIRPERSON: So that you do not yourself have any doubt as to who might have been responsible for her disappearance?
MR SIMELANE: Will you please repeat your question.
CHAIRPERSON: Do you have any doubt as to who was responsible for her disappearing?
MR SIMELANE: It is a little bit difficult to admit there, because I know she was being used and sent as a courier of ANC and suddenly thereafter she disappeared, but what hurts the most is that they never told me the truth and also that the never sent her, they pretended as if they did not know Nokuthula at all.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Simelane, I think that we are in the position very much that you are at the moment and that is to watch and wait for the outcome of the amnesty applications which have been made. I understand that there have, as you indicate, that there are, in fact, five applications that have been made and we will hear from that, we hope, considerably more, because we understand very well the pain that you must have had all these years. It is a pain not only that of feeling that your daughter has disappeared and you cannot reach her, but also of not knowing what actually happened to her and finally not being able to know how she died, where she died and where she has been buried. We will certainly follow up, we will keep a very close link, close watch on the amnesty process. We will also see what we can do further about following up with the ANC, because they must have some information about her and then, as you know, there is a programme within the Commission for reburial of loved ones. So we will be in touch with you about all those three major points and I would like to thank you and your wife for having the courage to come today and tell us this story. We sympathise very much with you and we will do what we can to bring you the information that you require. Thank you very much for coming.