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South Africa to prosecute apartheid-era police for murder

Four former officers will be charged in the 1983 killing of Nokuthula Simelane in Soweto

South African prosecutors plan to charge four former members of the apartheid-era security forces for the 1983 murder of Nokuthula Simelane, a young woman who had recently graduated from college and was a courier for the then-banned African National Congress.

The National Prosecuting Authority said that she disappeared while being held by the Soweto Special Branch police unit, that she was kidnapped and tortured and that her body has not been recovered. 

After apartheid ended in 1994, South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigated atrocities and granted amnesty to some accused perpetrators.

Luvuyo Mfaku, a prosecution spokesman, said Tuesday that three of the four suspects in Simelane's death applied for amnesty for her kidnapping but not for her murder. The fourth suspect will be charged with kidnapping and murder, he said.

According to prosecutors, she was an underground operative for the African National Congress, the main anti-apartheid group, which became South Africa's ruling party in 1994. She was illegally held for a week at a police barracks in Johannesburg, where she was tortured under questioning, prosecutors said. She was then interrogated and tortured at a farm for several weeks, they said.

The suspects are due to appear in a Pretoria court on Feb. 26.

Some South Africans believe more white officials should have been prosecuted for apartheid-era crimes. The highest-profile figure to be convicted is Eugene de Kock, the former head of a covert unit that committed multiple killings. He was granted parole last year.

Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recently defended the panel's work, saying the state later failed "to hold to account those who didn't receive amnesty."

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