Aggett's torturer earned millions from SARS work

07 June 2015 - 02:01 By STEPHAN HOFSTATTER, PIET RAMPEDI and MZILIKAZI WA AFRIKA


Apartheid security cop Lieutenant Steve Whitehead, who was found responsible for struggle activist Neil Aggett's death and now faces a possible murder rap, has scored millions of rands doing intelligence work for the South African Revenue Service. This is revealed in secret documents of the SARS rogue spy unit and a payment schedule obtained by the Sunday Times.They show that Whitehead received 194 payments totalling R4-million from government entities between 2007 and 2014. More than half of the payments came from SARS.Despite facing a criminal probe into his unsavoury past, Whitehead's company, Corporate Business Insight and Awareness, continued to score government work, including from SARS.Whitehead is a regular speaker at local and international corporate intelligence events and an adviser to the US-based Espionage Research Institute International, along with former FBI and US army counterintelligence agents.The documents reveal that Whitehead started working for SARS in 2006, when its rogue spy unit was being conceptualised. The unit was established in February 2007, headed by another apartheid spy, Andries "Skollie" Janse van Rensburg.Whitehead's services to SARS included a "basic course in electronic eavesdropping" and "tech surveillance". He also provided "security equipment", including spy cameras and signal jammers.mini_story_image_vleft1SARS evidently became concerned at the possible political fallout of hiring a torturer of prominent anti-apartheid activists, the documents show.An operational report from the SARS rogue spy unit in 2012 reveals that former deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay was concerned at how "former apartheid operative Steve Whitehead" came to be hired as "a service provider to SARS".The outcome of a probe Pillay ordered - dubbed Project Wonderboy - is unclear.However, payments to Whitehead continued for almost two years. The payment schedule reveals that Whitehead received another 14 disbursements worth R1.4-million in 2013 and continued to be employed by SARS until July last year.SARS would neither confirm nor deny that Whitehead had earned millions working for it."Issues of procurement are and remain internal matters," spokesman Luther Lubelo said.Asked what he felt about facing a possible murder charge for Aggett's death and to explain his work for SARS, Whitehead said: "I am not prepared to comment."Aggett, a 28-year-old medical doctor and unionist, was found hanging in his cell at John Vorster Square police station in Johannesburg in 1982 after Whitehead and his commander, Major Arthur Cronwright, tortured him with electric shocks for 62 hours.An inquest held at the time found no one was to blame.But a Truth and Reconciliation Commission report handed to Nelson Mandela in 1998 found that Whitehead and Cronwright were directly responsible for Aggett's death. Neither applied for amnesty or disputed the TRC findings.Cronwright has since died, but in 2013 the Hawks investigated a case of culpable homicide against Whitehead.mini_story_image_vright2Brian Sandberg, the former co-ordinator of the Neil Aggett Support Group, described in a statement how Aggett "was interrogated daily by Lt Whitehead and was required to make written additions to his confessional statement under torture including physical and verbal assault, long periods of standing, sleep deprivation and other forms of duress".The Khulumani Support Group has approached former Scorpions head and crack international detective Frank Dutton to dig up new evidence that could result in a murder charge being laid against Whitehead.Khulumani represents about 85000 victims of apartheid-era gross human rights violations."I believe there is a very good possibility of finding the evidence," Dutton said this week. "Findings of the TRC and evidence before the TRC showed the security police had no qualms about presenting false evidence."Khulumani hopes Dutton's investigation will uncover enough evidence to reopen the inquest and convert his culpable homicide case to a murder charge.Cosatu and its affiliate, the Food and Allied Workers Union, have for many years been campaigning for the prosecution of Whitehead and other former apartheid policemen blamed for Aggett's death.In 2013, Fawu members marched to Pretoria Central police station demanding that former police minister Nathi Mthethwa expedite investigations into the anti-apartheid activist's death.Cosatu spokesman Norman Mampane yesterday reiterated the labour federation's call for Whitehead to "face the music"."All who were involved in the killing of the Fawu leader must be brought to book. If indeed Whitehead was one of them, he must face the music," he said.sub_head_start Activist's life of caring cut short sub_head_endAggett was born in Kenya and moved to South Africa with his family in the 1960s.He completed a medical degree at the University of Cape Town in 1976, the year the country erupted in violent anti-apartheid protests.Rather than opt for a cushy life of white privilege, he worked in hospitals in the townships of Tembisa and Soweto.He became a trade unionist while working atBaragwanath Hospital and was appointed organiser of the Transvaal branch of the Food and Canning Workers' Union. His active championing of strikes and his efforts at uniting trade unions in a mass democratic movement attracted the attention of the apartheid security police and he was labelled a communist subversive.He was arrested on December 11 1981 and committed suicide on February 5 1982 after being tortured continuously for 62 hours.stephanh@sundaytimes.co.za, mzilikazi@sundaytimes.co.za, rampedip@sundaytimes.co.za

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