South Africa: Inquests Re-Opened Into Luthuli, Mxenge and Mantyi Apartheid Era Deaths

Chief Albert Luthuli

Inquests into the deaths of prominent anti-apartheid activists Chief Albert Luthuli and Mlungisi Griffiths Mxenge and civic leader Booi Mantyi have been re-opened by Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, on recommendations from the National Prosecuting Authority.

"With these inquests, we open very real wounds which are more difficult to open 30 years into our democracy, but none the less, the interest of justice can never be bound by time the truth must prevail," said the Minister.

Regarding Luthuli, who was also Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the department said official reports found that he was struck down by a train "but the exact circumstances surrounding the incident remain unclear to this day".

An inquest was held in September 1967 and an apartheid era court found that he had died following a fracture to the skull but that the "evidence did not disclose any criminal culpability on the part of South African Railways and anyone else".

"As a result of representations made to the National Director of Public Prosecutions which brought to the fore that in 1967, the inquest did not consider certain mathematical and scientific principles. This mathematical and scientific report reveal that it is highly unlikely that Chief Luthuli was struck by a train and died because of that.

"Considering this information, amongst others, and the investigation done by the Truth and Reconciliation Unit of the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation, Minister Lamola accepts and agrees that it is necessary and in the interest of justice to approach the Judge President of the High Court of South Africa in the KwaZulu-Natal Division to re-open the inquest into the death of Chief Albert Luthuli," the department said.

Griffiths Mxenge

The anti-Apartheid activist and civil rights lawyer Mxenge died in 1981 and his body - with some 45 lacerations - was found at a sports field in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal.

Two years later, an inquest into the death was opened which, according to the department, "failed to identify the perpetrators, despite clear signs of foul play, including evidence of surveillance on Mr. Mxenge's office and the poisoning of his dogs".

"A thorough investigation was not done into the death of Mr. Mxenge. The Harms Commission and Truth and Reconciliation Commission revealed that orders to kill Mr. Mxenge came from Vlakplaas head Dirk Coetzee. Dirk Coetzee and his accomplices Nofomela, and Tshikalanga were granted amnesty for the murder of Mxenge.

"There is new evidence that certain critical information was not presented to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the initial inquest, although the perpetrators were clearly identified. Minister Lamola accepts that it is necessary and in the interest of justice to approach the Judge President of the High Court of South Africa in the KwaZulu-Natal Division to re-open the inquest into the death of Mr Mxenge," the department said.

Booi Mantyi

Mantyi was killed on 16 June 1985 during an alleged altercation with Apartheid era police at De Aar in the Northern Cape.

That same year, an inquest was held into Mantyi's death with the outcome finding no one responsible.

The department explained that a fresh investigation "has revealed that an eyewitness who has not previously testified has been identified".

"Considering the above, Minister Lamola is of the view that it is necessary and in the interests of justice to request the Judge President of the High Court of South Africa, Northern Cape Division to re-open an inquest into the death of Mr Booi Mantyi," the department said.

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