Remembering Nokuthula Simelane
The Sol Plaatje University kick started Women’s Month with an in-depth discussion with Polokwane Mayor, Thembi Nkadimeng speaking on her family’s journey for justice for her sister, Nokuthula Simelane, who went missing on the 10th of September 1983.
Nokuthula Simelane became an activist for the African National Congress in Swaziland where she graduated from the University of Swaziland with a Bachelor in Administration. At the time of Nokuthula’s disappearance, she was 23 years-old and had left Swaziland for Carlton Centre to buy a graduation gown. Since then, no one knows what really happened to her. What is known however, is that Simelane was abducted by the apartheid police and brutally tortured for 6 to 8 weeks. Resorting to hiring private investigators, the family tirelessly searched in the pursuit of finding out what happened to her, even if it was just to find her remains. In a new dawn that sparked democracy, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was instituted in 1995 to assist in bringing reconciliation by uncovering the violation of human rights that occurred during the apartheid era, for both the perpetrators and victims.
Bethel was amongst the main producers of potatoes and young boys who committed pass law offences under the apartheid government were taken to the potato farms were they endured terrible working conditions and were beaten up with some dying at the hands of the foremen, leaving their bodies to be buried in the fields. Potatoes from Bethel were boycotted and gained so much momentum that it made airwaves internationally. These were amongst the activities that attracted Simelane to politics, “My sister was very different, she was homebound and spent most of her time reading. She was not the type to do things in the traditional manner, instead of eating her meal then dessert she would start with her dessert,” Nkadimeng joked.
Simelane’s case is one out of 492 cases that were brought before the TRC and only 11 of the cases were taken to court as most of the families could not afford legal representation, “My brother and father died and there has still been no conclusion as to how. My mother is now 79 years-old and her heart is still heavy. If we were at least told where my sister’s remains lie, we could find peace,” Nkadimeng let out. The case will continue on the 8th of August so that Simelane can be declared deceased as the evidence they presented to the court depicts that after being tortured in the manner that she was, it is impossible that she would still be alive. Part of the torturing methods included electric shock, being submerged underwater and brutally beaten until she soiled herself.
Sol Plaatje University student Palesa Lekhowane expressed,” These are the materials we need to be taught in schools. It is imperative that we are educated on our own history and I am moved by the strength that Nkadimeng possesses. This is what we talk about when we talk about African Women!”
“Every war has casualties but every soldier is dignified,” Nkadimeng concluded.