Former Vlakplaas cop and ANC defector in court for the death of 3 Cosas members

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Ephraim Mfalapitsa in court for three counts of murder. (Supplied, NPA)
Ephraim Mfalapitsa in court for three counts of murder. (Supplied, NPA)
  • The alleged askari and former ANC member will finally have his day in court to answer for the death of three Cosas members.
  • Tlhomedi Ephraim Mfalapitsa allegedly conspired with his colleagues at Vlakplaas Security Branch to kill four students using explosives.
  • Mfaladitsa was a member of uMkhonto we Sizwe in exile before he secretly defected to the Security Branch.

The alleged apartheid askari Tlhomedi Ephraim Mfalapitsa made his first appearance in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Friday. 

The 67-year-old Mfalapitsa, who was accompanied by his relatives, made a brief appearance before Judge Majake Mabesele. 

Mfalapitsa is facing three counts of murder related to the bombing of three Cosas members, Eustice "Bimbo" Madikela, Ntshingo Mataboge and Fanyana Nhlapho, in 1982. Cosas member Zandisile Musi survived the incident. 

It is alleged that Mfaladitsa conspired with his Vlakplaas colleagues to kill Musi, Madikela, Mataboge and Nhlapo.

Mfalapitsa, who resides in Phokeng, Rustenburg, was a member of uMkhonto We Sizwe and defected by joining the Security Branch police and worked against his former comrades in the ANC.

National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane expressed confidence in the case, even though the incident happened 40 years ago.  

She said before Mfalapitsa defected from the ANC, he had a close relationship with Musi's two elder brothers who served with him in the MK in exile.

"After joining the Security Branch police, Mfalapitsa established contact with Musi, who wanted to leave the country and join uMkhonto We Sizwe. The two discussed possibilities of Musi leaving the country with Mfalapitsa whom he still regarded as a member of MK, as the accused's defection to the Security Branch was a closely guarded secret.

"Mfalapitsa who was stationed at Vlakplaas, reported his conversations with Musi to his commander Jan Carel Coetzee," said Mjonondwane.

READ | Apartheid murder: Families of Cosas 4 apply for bodies to be exhumed, NPA says its premature

Coetzee ordered Mfaladitsa to lure Musi and the deceased to a pumphouse at a mine near Krugersdorp, pretending to give them military training.

"Another Vlakplaas askari Joe Mamasela arranged a vehicle to drive the four Cosas members to the pump station. Mamasela pretended to be a taxi driver hired by Mfalapitsa. The arrangement was that once the students were inside the pumphouse, Mfalapitsa would then leave the place pretending to fetch more firearms for training from the vehicle," said Mjonondwane. 

And once he was far away from the pumphouse, the explosives would be detonated, killing the students. The students were meant to be killed in an explosion to create the false impression that they blew themselves up while undergoing military training.

The order to kill the students using explosives came from senior officers within the Security Branch and was conveyed to Coetzee by his superior, Willem Frederick Schoon. 

Coetzee arranged with his colleague Christiaan Siebert Rorich, an explosives expert, to place the explosives inside the pumphouse and detonate them on Coetzee's signal.

Another Security Branch officer Abraham Grobbelaar had to accompany Coetzee on the mission and act as a lookout.

"On 15 February 1982, the plan and arrangement went accordingly. Mamasela transported the students as a taxi driver to the pumphouse. The pumphouse was full of explosives placed by Rorich while Coetzee and Grobbelaar kept the lookout.

"Mfalapitsa left the students in the pumphouse and signalled to Coetzee and Grobbelaar that he was out of the pumphouse. Coetzee, in turn, signalled to Rorich to detonate the explosives. The explosives were detonated, killing the deceased instantly. Musi survived but was severely injured," said Mjonodwane. 

ALSO READ | The rise and fall of Vlakplaas's 'cowardly' commander

Madikela, Mataboge and Nhlapo died from multiple injuries they sustained. Musi was hospitalised, and upon discharge, he was charged for being in possession of explosives that killed his comrades.

Mjonondwane said due to the severity of his injuries and state of health, and charges were eventually withdrawn against him.

"Mfaladitsa, Mamasela, Coetzee, Rorich, Schoon and Grobbelaar acted in furtherance of a common purpose." Mfaladitsa is expected back in court on 23 August for a pre-trial.

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