Umlazi court postpones inquest into 1986 death of three ANC activists

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Umlazi Magistrate’s Court has postponed an inquest into the death of three African National Congress (ANC) activists who disappeared in 1986, to November 30, 2022.

Ntombikayise Kubheka, Musawenkosi Phewa and Bright Sokhulu were allegedly killed by the Security Police, but their bodies were never found. It is believed that the trio belonged to an underground structure, known as the KwaMashu ANC Cell.

The matter was postponed to allow the state time to notify witnesses and to finalise legal representation for the witnesses and the families.

The National Prosecuting Authorities (NPA) in KwaZulu-Natal says they now have a total of 30 cases stemming from the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), of which 10 have recently been referred to them.

Provincial NPA spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson-Kara says they are focusing on cases in which the TRC did not grant amnesty from prosecution.

During the TRC proceedings, several Port Natal Security Branch members applied for amnesty. Some of the applicants were granted amnesty whilst others were not. The NPA was mandated to look at matters where amnesty was not granted by the TRC and decide whether there is a prosecutable case or not.

To assist the NPA in arriving at a proper decision, the DPCI was mandated to conduct investigations into such matters, also parliament approved the establishment of units by both NPA and DPCI to focus on these matters.

The Director of Public Prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal, after reading the dockets that were submitted by the DPCI KZN TRC unit in these matters, has decided that formal inquests should be held.

Senior State Advocates from the NPA’s TRC Unit will be handling these inquests.

It was expected that the inquest into the death of the 3 ANC activists would start in the Umlazi Magistrate’s Court on Monday. Some family members of the activists were in court. However, most of the relatives were reluctant to speak to the media.

A son of one of the activists, who wanted to remain anonymous, says he is eager to know what happened to the father he never knew.

“I have been told my father was an ANC activist, from what I’ve heard I understand my father was a hero, and he was about twenty years at that time in 1987. I was told he was taken by white police. I was born the following day after he was taken on May 20th. It has been 35 years since my father was killed. Until today, I have unhealed wounds of not knowing my father, that pains me the most. We do not know where he is buried, 35 years later we still do not know what happened to his remains.”

Meanwhile, this family welcomes the inquest into the killing of their loved one.

KwaZulu-Natal Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Elaine Zungu said at a briefing last week that they have experienced challenges with inquests involving TRC cases.

Zungu says, “Some of the challenges with regards to the TRC matters are as follows, the unavailability of documents, many documents are still being traced e.g. post mortem reports, photo albums, inquest records where inquests were previously held, dockets, prison records, another issue the age of the witnesses and their recollection of events. Many of the witnesses who are still available, are old. The unavailability of witnesses and or suspects as they have died.”

The relatives of the three men have pinned their hopes on the inquest to finally get answers.