Aggett inquest concluded, judge moves to Ernest Dipale case

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The inquest into the death of anti-apartheid activist Neil Aggett has concluded, now the focus will shift to the inquest of another activist, Ernest Dipale.

Dipale also died under similar circumstances as Aggett. He allegedly committed suicide at John Vorster Square on August 08, 1982, about six months after Aggett’s death.

Judge Motsamai Makume will continue to preside over the Dipale inquest.

The security branch police claim that both Dipale and Aggett hanged themselves in their cells.

Testifying virtually on the final day of the Aggett inquest, Police officer Captain Ben Nel said his colleagues had called him a traitor for taking on the investigation. He says that he had been assigned the case in 2016.

Lawyers involved in the Aggett inquest managed to invite several witnesses who testified in 1982, to again give evidence at the now reopened inquest. This as the Aggett family seeks to challenge the findings of the 1982 inquest which cleared the security branch police of any wrongdoing.

Nel listed several former security branch police officers whom he interviewed, but Aggett family lawyer Howard Varney demanded answers on one particular officer, whose name was missing from the list.

Varney said: “I’m particularly curious as to why you didn’t pursue a meeting or an interview with former Lieutenant Stephen Whitehead, given that he really is/was the prime suspect in this matter. He is deceased, but he only died on April 23, 2019?”

Nel said: “We opened the Neil Aggett and the Ahmed Timol cases around the same time. We got an instruction from the Adv Shaun Abrahams (NDPP) that we must first do the Timol inquest, as at that stage the Aggett inquest was put on hold.”

He said he encountered several challenges in getting to the bottom of the matter.

“Nobody wanted to help me because they saw me as a traitor. I was called a traitor many times because I was investigating white police officers accused in the past. When I talk to people they say I’m not going to talk to you, you’re a traitor, because of that, it took me two times longer because people didn’t want to assist at that stage…” said Nel.

“I think the big problem is all the documents you try to seek are missing or are destroyed, or if you try to get the documents from the old security branch, there’s no way you’re going to get it,” he said.

Aggett inquest Stream

The final witness was uMkhonto Wesizwe Military Veterans Association’s (MKMVA) Carl Niehaus, who was detained at John Vorster a year and a month after Aggett’s death.

His reason for wanting to testify was based on an apparent misunderstanding of former police officer Joseph Nyampule’s version of events, as Varney put it to him.

Varney says, “So I must ask you Mr Niehaus, will you retract a statement in your affidavit, that Mr Joseph Nyampule in his evidence was trying to develop a narrative that detainees were prone to wanting to commit suicide?

Niehaus said, “So I will retract the statement on the basis of the information that you shared with me now, with the understanding that that particular statement that I have been aware of it, created an impression in my mind, that such a narrative was being developed. So yes, I will retract.”

Former security branch police officer accused of misleading the 1982 Aggett Inquest: