Lindiwe Charity Nyembezi Mthembu was born on 28 February 1969 in KwaMashu, Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal). She was the fifth daughter born to Sonnyboy Nkwana and Queen Mantombi Mthembu. While attending Zakhe Secondary School in KwaMashu, Mthembu was actively involved in community politics as a member of KwaMashu Youth League and Ntuzuma Youth League.
In 1984, Mthembu joined the African National Congress (ANC) and Congress of South African Students (COSAS). Also associated with the United Democratic Front (UDF), Mthembu soon became a target of police harassment for her active involvement in political mobilisation. Mthembu went into exile in Angola, in October 1986, and while there received military training. In 1988, she was ordered to return to South Africa through the Mozambique and Swaziland borders.
On the night of 8 June 1988, Mthembu, together with fellow MK members Surendra “Lenny” Naidu, Nontsikelelo June-Rose Cothoza and Makhosi Nyoka, set out on re-entering South Africa from the Swaziland border with the intention of infiltrating Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) where they would be involved in the struggle for liberation from the inside. The four cadres were transported by Silulame Moshe, who they knew as “Amos”. However, unknown to them, “Amos” was an askari, Lieutenant Silulame Moshe.  Mthembu and her comrades were conveyed over the border into Piet Retief, Transvaal (now Mpumalanga), where they were ambushed by Eugene De Kock and his Vlakplaas assassins. 
At the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), De Kock described himself and his fellow assassins firing at the vehicle with Uzis and 762 calibre R1s. Once the gunfire ceased, they approached the vehicle. One of the people - a woman - staggered out of the vehicle, perceptibly struggling for breath. De Kock ordered Marthinus Ras to shoot her. De Kock and his assassins searched the car and found all the occupants to be deceased. To their dismay, however, none of the deceased were armed. They therefore undertook to plant weapons in the vehicle and on the deceased. De Kock explained the predicament:
Chairperson, it created a situation that one did not expect and it immediately brought problems, which caused a cris[is] in my opinion and which would have been an embarrassment for the police as well as the government and I requested from Mr Pienaar whether he had any East Block weapons or equipment and my recollection is that he did indeed have a Makarov pistol which was at his office, which served as an exhibit in some or other case and it is also m[y] recollection that there was one F1 and an RPG hand grenade, which was at his office. I am open to correction on that matter, but that is my recollection. One of the persons who was at the scene went and collected these items and they were placed at the bodies as proof that there were weapons there. 
The bodies were thereafter loaded onto a bakkie. Marthinus Grobler, former police officer who was on duty at Piet Retief police station on the night of the killings corroborated the account that no weapons were found on the victims. In condemning the perpetrators, Grobler emphasised that were weapons found on the victims, the officers would have had to hand it over to him who would then record it in the official books and put it in a safe. No weapons were handed to him. Officer Leon Flores, however, maintained that weapons were found on the deceased liberation fighters. Grobler also described how the bodies were treated: ‘The corpses were dragged out of the back of a police vehicle. Just dragged out of the vehicle straight on the ground, there was no respect shown to the corpses. They were just dragged in and dropped on the morgue floor.’ 
On 12 June 1988, only four days after the ambush that led to the death of Mthembu and her comrades, four more ANC insurgents were transported by askari Sergeant Frans Manzini to the Swaziland border in order to infiltrate South Africa. They too were ambushed and massacred by De Kock’s Vlakplaas assassins. At the same time, another two ANC activists were ambushed, one of whom managed to escape.
Subsequent to the killings, Fredrick Pienaar, one of the officers involved in this ambush and massacre was authorised as the investigating officer, to burn the clothing of the victims apparently in fear of contracting HIV/AIDS.
Though the hope was for transparency at the TRC, what families of the victims got instead was continued deception and contradictions in the accounts of the perpetrators. Besides the issue regarding the weapons, another issue of contention was the intention of the ambush. Officer Flores emphasised that the intention was to arrest the MK activists and attempted to refute the notion of assassinations undertaken by the Vlakplaas cohort. The Commission, however, concluded that the excessive number of insurgent deaths in this manner suggested that little attempt was made to arrest the victims. Nine of the perpetrators involved in the killing of Mthembu and her comrades were granted amnesty. 
On 1 July 1988, a joint memorial service was held for the nine ANC activists who were killed in the Piet Retief ambushes in June 1988. The service was restricted to 200 mourners and was closely monitored by the police. 
 An askari is a member of the ANC who turned to become an agent of the apartheid’s South African police. ↵
 According to the TRC Final Report, Vol. 2, Chapter 3 the perpetrators involved in the planning and carrying out of the ambush were Eugene De Kock, Gerrie Johan Barnard, Jury Bernardus Hayes, Flip Koenraad Theron, Sergeant Leon William John Flores, Captain Marthinus David Ras, DG Willemse, JH Tait, HC du Plessis, Brigadier WF Schoon, Major CP Deetleefs, Warrant Officer FHS ‘Lappies’ Labuschagne, NJ ‘Snor’ Vermeulen, Warrant Officer FJ Pienaar and Dawid Brits. Available at http://sabctrc.saha.org.za/reports/volume2/chapter3/subsection37.htm?t=%2BPiet+%2BRetief+%2Bambushes&tab=report. Accessed on 12 February 2020. ↵
 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Special Report, ‘Amnesty Hearings: Eugene De Kock,’ 26 July 1999, http://sabctrc.saha.org.za/hearing.php?id=53564&t=piet+retief+ambushes+de+kock&tab=hearings. Accessed on 5 February 2020. ↵
 SABC, ‘TRC Episode 18, Part 2,’ YouTube, 18 April 2011, 7:31, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HuEmD32T44&list=WL&index=268&t=154s. ↵
 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Special Report, ‘Piet Retief ambushes,’ Available at http://sabctrc.saha.org.za/glossary/piet_retief_ambushes.htm. Accessed on 12 February. ↵
 Mercury Reporter. ‘Police helicopter hovers over mourners.’ Mercury. 4 July 1988. Available at http://www.lndi.co.za/index.php/press-room. Accessed on 12 February 2020. ↵
Harper, P. ‘Lies and deceit in death of 9 activists.’ Independent Online. 30 July 1999. Available at https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/lies-and-deceit-in-death-of-9-activists-6571. Accessed on 12 February 2020.
Mercury Reporter. ‘Police helicopter hovers over mourners.’ Mercury. 4 July 1988. Available at http://www.lndi.co.za/index.php/press-room. Accessed on 12 February 2020.
SABC, ‘TRC Episode 18, Part 2,’ YouTube, 18 April 2011, 7:31, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HuEmD32T44&list=WL&index=268&t=154s.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission Special Report, ‘Amnesty Hearings: Eugene De Kock,’ 26 July 1999, http://sabctrc.saha.org.za/hearing.php?id=53564&t=piet+retief+ambushes+de+kock&tab=hearings. Accessed on 5 February 2020.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report, Vol. 2, Chapter 3. 1998. Available at http://sabctrc.saha.org.za/reports/volume2/chapter3/subsection37.htm?t=%2BPiet+%2BRetief+%2Bambushes&tab=report. Accessed on 12 February 2020.