Aggett judgment a step forward towards justice for many families seeking answers: Activists

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Anti-apartheid activists believe the Aggett ruling is a step towards justice for many families still seeking answers.
Trade unionist and medical doctor, Neil Aggett was found hanging from his cell at John Vorster Square in 1982.

A first inquest ruled his death a suicide. However, the recent Johannesburg High Court judgment that trade unionist and medical doctor didn’t commit suicide, but was instead killed by apartheid-era police, is believed to be a step forward towards justice for many families still seeking answers.

Aggett was found hanging from his cell at John Voster Square in 1982. At that time, an inquest ruled his death a suicide. But on Friday, the High Court overruled it.

40-years after anti-apartheid activist, Neil Aggett, was declared dead by suicide, the Johannesburg High Court has nullified the inquest. The re-opened inquest found that Aggett was murdered by the apartheid regime’s security branch.

Dr Naidoo, an expert pathologist, has testified that Neil must have been unconscious, either through suffocation or electric shock.

Paul Erasmus testified that security police routinely covered up for each other. He gave an example of Stanza Bopape, who appeared in the TRC, and was killed by electrocution. It is therefore clear Aggette was a big cover-up of the truth, and this involves all police officers, who were there on the morning of the fifth of February.

This is not an isolated matter, there are other related cases, where families of victims of the apartheid government are demanding answers. They include the case of Ahmed Timol.

Last year, former apartheid policeman, Joao Rodrigues, died before he could be prosecuted for Timol’s death. Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Cajee is of the view that there’s still a very long way to justice.

“Democratic institutions and government of the day must be held responsible. As to how was it possible for the state to fail in upholding the rule of the law. The apartheid perpetrators have never had their day in court. Rodrigues died, why did it take so long for the judiciary?”

The Congress of the People (COPE) has lamented the extent that families need to go through to access justice for crimes committed during apartheid. Cope’s Dennis Bloem.

“Why is it that individual families must spend millions of rands to find out the truth and the perpetrators’ legal defence is funded by the government. We believe that if the country wants to close a painful chapter of the apartheid past, then we must see justice. Let children know who killed their parents. Let parents know who killed their children. Let all these perpetrators pay for their sins.”

A second inquest into the death of Earnest Dipale, as well as Hoosen Haffejee, who died in police custody, has begun.

The National Prosecuting Authority has set up a special division to investigate almost 60 TRC cases. -Additional reporting by Hasina Gori

Johannesburg High Court delivers judgment in the Aggett Inquest: