Call for new Aggett, Haffejee inquests

Staff Writer | Aug 19, 2019
Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has recommended to the High Court that it appoint judges to conduct new inquests into the deaths in detention of anti-apartheid activists Dr Neil Aggett and Hoosen Haffejee.

The original inquests into the deaths of both detainees found that they had committed suicide by hanging.

Justice ministry spokesperson Chrispin Phiri told News24: ‘In light of the findings of Judge Billy Mothle in the inquest of Ahmed Timol [whose 1972 death in detention was ascribed to suicide in the original inquest] the sixth administration is committed to ensuring that the justice system addresses TRC matters expeditiously.’

The reopened 2016 inquest into Timol’s death led to a charge of murder against former security branch officer Joao Jan Roderigues, 80. Roderigues has applied to the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg for a permanent stay of prosecution on the basis of his age. A ruling has yet to be made. 

Questions have been raised about the basis of the charge against him in an extensive five-part analysis on Politicsweb.

Neil Aggett, a medical doctor and trade unionist, was detained by the security policy in November 1981, and died at the John Vorster Square police station after 70 days of detention without trial, on February 5, 1982. Police said he hanged himself.

Haffejee was arrested under the Terrorism Act in August 1977 as a suspected saboteur. He was found hanging in his cell at Durban's Brighton Beach police station on August 3, 1977. An inquest at the time ruled that he died by suicide and that injuries to his back, knees, arms and head were not connected to his death.

Lamola said: ‘It is of paramount importance to society that justice is not seen as a mythical concept, but it must be seen to be done. Conceivably this principle becomes more pronounced where the families of apartheid-era victims are concerned. As the ministry, we will be looking into TRC cases which fall under this category to ensure that justice fully manifests itself.’


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