Aggett's, Haffejee's and other deaths in detention to be reinvestigated

16 August 2019 - 15:18 By Ernest Mabuza
Dr Neil Aggett, the trade union leader and labour activist who died in detention in 1982. An inquest found no one was to blame for his death.
Dr Neil Aggett, the trade union leader and labour activist who died in detention in 1982. An inquest found no one was to blame for his death.
Image: Gallo Images / Sunday Times

Justice minister Ronald Lamola wants the deaths of anti-apartheid activists Neil Aggett and Hoosen Haffejee to be re-investigated.

Lamola announced on Friday that he had requested the judges president of the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal divisions of the high court to each designate a judge to reopen the inquests in relation to the deaths in detention of the activists.

The justice department said Lamola's decision was in terms of Section 17(A) of the Inquest Act of 1959 and follows an application by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for the reopening of the inquests.

Aggett was a doctor who died in detention in Johannesburg in 1982, aged 28. The inquest into his death held that no one was to blame.

Haffejee, a dentist, was found dead in his cell, hanging from his jeans tied to the cell bars of a Durban jail, in August 1977. The original inquest ruled that his death was as a result of suicide.

In April this year, former justice minister Michael Masutha announced that the ministry had authorised the NPA’s request in relation to the death in detention of the two activists.

"The ministry of justice and correctional services can confirm that this decision is still in effect. In light of the findings of judge Billy Mothle in the inquest of Ahmed Timol, the sixth administration is committed to ensuring that the justice system addresses TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) matters expeditiously," ministry spokesperson Chrispin Phiri said.

Lamola said it was of paramount importance to society that justice 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," Lamola said.


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