COSAS-4 trial postponed yet again in Johannesburg High Court

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The long-awaited COSAS-4 trial – involving two former apartheid security officers – has once again been postponed in the Johannesburg High Court on Tuesday.

Christiaan Rorich and Thlomedi Mfalapitsa are facing charges of crimes against humanity and murder. The charges are in relation to the murder of Eustice “Bimbo” Madikela, Peter “Ntshingo” Matabane, Fanyana Nhlapo and the attempted murder of Zandisile Musi in 1982.

The three students were killed by an explosion inside a pump house at the Krugersdorp mine west of Johannesburg. One person survived the attack.

SABC News spoke to accused number one, Ephraim Mfalapitsa, ahead of proceedings.  “I told the white people I don’t want anything to do with a war I want to stay away from any violent participation because I had seen what war is and they told me that they could not leave me because the war was raging so they took me to Vlakplaas and coerced me in a way and this information came about and the forced me and they said this is how they decided it must happen to these four guys and I objected and they said no it has been finalised. And that time at Vlakplaas it was a question of do or die.”


The four anti-apartheid activists were members of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) and were collectively known as the ‘COSAS 4’.

On the 15th of February 1982 – four members of the Congress of South African Students were lured into a warehouse on the West Rand.  Three of them died and one was seriously injured.

Matabane was killed when his son, Tshepo Mokgatle was just a month old. The protracted legal battle had led to frustration and re-traumatisation for the families of the COSAS-4.

Son of victim Tshepo Mokgatle says, “I am feeling very devastated today and it is very tiring to come back to court always for the same matter to be postponed. You know today marks 40 years and 3 months and if the families can get closure and if the matter can be finalised and everything that will be fine, because now you can see what is happening they come to court and they postpone the matter, and they brought back all these memories for the families because we forgot about this case and then they brought it back.”

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says it is concerned about the delays in the trial. Today’s postponement was to allow the defence time to file supplementary affidavits to the court in preparation for trial.

NPA Spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane says, “It is disappointing that the accused are delaying this matter. They are bringing every antic you can think of into delaying these proceedings. We are saying that as the NPA because they waited from January and they knew that the matter was in court this week and only last week they decided to notify the state that they will be filing documents to object to the charge sheet, so they are challenging some of the charges saying the state can not charge them under the international law.”

The case will return to the High Court in Johannesburg on the 6th of June. -Additional reporting by Sashin Naidoo