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MK Operative Simelane’s Apartheid-Era Killer Cop ‘Has Dementia’

MK Operative Simelane’s Apartheid-Era Killer Cop ‘Has Dementia’….  One of the apartheid-era ex-policemen accused of murdering former Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) operative Nokuthula Simelane now suffers from memory loss, twitching of his knees and a loss of balance.

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MK Operative Simelane's Apartheid-Era Killer Cop 'Has Dementia'

 

This is the latest reason given for yet another postponement of a trial that the Simelane family has been waiting almost 40 years for.

A preliminary medical report prepared by Prof James Ker was presented in the Pretoria high court on Monday. It shows that 70-year-old apartheid police officer Willem Coetzee had hyper-reflexi in both his arms, which is an exaggerated response of tendon reflexes (twitching).

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Ker also found that Coetzee had loss of balance and intermittent weakness of both legs. Based on his assessment, Ker said at the moment Coetzee is “unable to understand and follow complicated procedures and discussions”.

Anton Pretorius and Willem Coetzee with their legal team after their court case for the murder of uMkhonto weSizwe operative Nokuthula Simelane was postponed to August 23 at the high court in Pretoria on Monday.

After the short appearance with his co-accused Anton Pretorius, Simelane’s sister Thembi Nkadimeng begged Coetzee to come and greet her mother but he simply walked away with his lawyers.

“Why don’t you want to meet my mother?” Nkadimeng asked as she broke into tears outside court.

Speaking to Sowetan afterwards, Nkadimeng, who is the deputy minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, said it was important for Coetzee to see what he had caused her family.

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“I wanted him to look at my mother and see her pain, maybe he would understand. He must look my mother in the eye and see the pain and the anguish that he is subjecting her to. Maybe that will make him think and say ‘with the little recollection that I have, this is what happened’. The pain is in the eye,” Nkadimeng said.

The two men sat quietly not far from Simelane’s family, which had waited for decades to finally know what happened to their beloved daughter.

Simelane disappeared while on an ANC mission to SA from Swaziland in 1983. She was lured to a meeting in the underground parking of the Carlton Centre in the Johannesburg inner city. She was arrested and tortured for days until she died. Since her death, her family has been demanding answers, wanting to know where she was buried.

Coetzee and Pretorius are believed to have been part of the group of the apartheid police who kidnapped and killed her. At the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearing, five policemen applied for amnesty relating to Simelane’s abduction, torture and disappearance. Coetzee and Pretorius are the only two remaining witnesses after three died of ill health in recent years.

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Coetzee and Pretorius were expected to stand trial for Simelane’s death, but Adv Jaap Cilliers, for both accused, informed the court that Coetzee has been assessed by a doctor who produced a preliminary report on his health which indicated that he suffered from dementia.

“According to the preliminary report, Mr Coetzee cannot understand and follow criminal proceedings or complex discussions,” Cilliers said.

Coetzee suffered Covid-19 complications last month. His lawyer said the doctor conducting an assessment will complete his work and a final report will be sent to the prosecutors before the next court date on August 23.

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Cilliers said it was crucial for the medical assessment to be completed because Coetzee’s current state of health could be temporary.

Nkadimeng said the postponement was a big blow to the family. “We came here eagerly to hear what they [the accused] have always been saying, which is they would want to come to court of law and tell the judge they don’t know what happened to her.

“Now these are delaying tactics…These charges were not put today, we come with them from 2001. He now cannot offer instructions to his lawyers on something he knew from 2001. Forget about the TRC. He knows the facts, it is jut about the delaying tactics, hoping that Covid-19 will kill him.

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“This is a game, [he is] hoping that he will die. I’m already putting my hopes down because on the 23rd of August, he will possibly be confirmed mad,” Nkadimeng said.

Nkadimeng said her biggest worry is her mother Msesi Simelane, who has been waiting to know what happened to her daughter.

“My fear is that my mom is old and sickly. She is actually older than the men who have been protected by their lawyers today. Yet she sits in the court benches with no say, with no consultation.

“She has been coming to court for over 20 years. She is actually in a state where she does not understand why are we going to court today, why are they postponing. We guess that is what the price of justice is,” Nkadimeng said.

 

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