Torture, racism & activism -Frank Chikane's testimony at Neil Aggett inquest

31 January 2020 - 10:00 By Cebelihle Bhengu
Reverend Frank Chikane.
Reverend Frank Chikane.
Image: Lebohang Mashiloane

Torture, abuse and alienation. These are some of the harrowing experiences anti-apartheid activist Reverend Frank Chikane and fellow activist Dr Neil Aggett were allegedly subjected to at the John Vorster Square police station at the height of apartheid.

Chikane on Thursday testified before the inquest into Aggett's death, describing the lengths the apartheid security branch went to, to get information from them.

He also said he does not believe Aggett committed suicide as has been claimed over the years.

Here's a summary of his testimony in five quotes:


“We were tortured thoroughly at John Vorster. That is the detention where they used third degree methods, which means there were no rules. They trampled on me and did anything they could to you. About three people died during that detention.”

Aggett's death might not have been suicide

“The story was either you hung yourself or slept in the bath shower, but we never believed those stories. He was struggling to walk and was walking slowly, almost like a patient who was being assisted to get to the cell. He looked very weak in my view and, distressed.”

Alienated from the church

“The Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) church has changed radically. It was divided along racial lines before. When we united in 1996, the leader of the white church publicly asked for forgiveness about what they did to me. We are the only church that was divided that has since reached unity. Back then, there was no sympathy, they believed I was a terrorist.”

Families of detainees were kept in the dark

“We couldn't call for a stay away, it was illegal to announce somebody had been detained, and we had to use the churches across the country to say 'we are praying for so and so in detention'. That was the only way the families would know, because it was illegal to do that announcement.”

Young people were detained 

"I was interrogated for 48 hours and then I stopped. I told them anything you will get now will not make sense and I refused to talk to them for two hours. They unchained me, drove me to Rustenburg prison and dumped me there until the following year."