Former apartheid police officer denies involvement in torture, death of Neil Aggett

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Former Security Branch police officer, under the apartheid government, Martin Naude has denied ever being involved in any cover-up of a detainee’s death during his 40-year career as an investigator.

Naude has has been on the witness stand for two days, testifying at an inquest into the death of anti-apartheid activist, Neil Aggett, who was found hanging in his cell at the then John Vorster Square police station in Johannesburg in February 1982.

Apartheid security police said that Aggett committed suicide, however, his family believes that they were responsible for his death.

The inquest into Aggett’s death began in 2020 but had to be postponed initially because the presiding judge had fallen ill due to COVID-19.

Naude admitted to interrogating Aggett from mid-December 1981, and says he last saw him on January 9, 1982 after which he then returned to his home town of East London. He denied being involved in the torture of any detainee, including Agget.

He says, “Nobody trained me to that effect, nobody told me that, nothing, I wasn’t present when somebody did that. I can say without any shadow of a doubt I was never part and parcel of that. And as an investigator through a career of 40-years, personally I was never involved in any cover up, I’ve never been asked to change a statement or I never volunteered to change a statement, even in this hearing.”

Activists tortured and killed in detention:

Naude maintained throughout his testimony that he has no knowledge of the torture and assault of Aggett or any other political prisoners at John Vorster Square.

He says that if it did happen, it never took place when he was present, but the Aggett family lawyer Howard Varney has questioned Naude on why the inspector of detainees and the magistrate had not seen Aggett.

Varney says, “At least for a portion of that period, certainly from the 23rd of December to the 4th and possibly the 6th of January, you were leading the interrogation. Do you have any comment as to why the inspector of detainees and the magistrate concerned were denied access to him?”

Naude responded saying, “We people at grassroots level were never notified beforehand when the inspector of detainees or the magistrate would visit. This comes to me as a surprise for 4 January and 6 January, in the sense that Dr Aggett was with me. I was not aware they wanted to see him, I was not aware they were there.”

He says that as one of Aggett’s interrogators, he had been called to John Vorster Square after the anti-apartheid activist had died. He says he was only asked to give a statement to the officer investigating Aggett’s death in detention.

Naude is expected to conclude his testimony on Wednesday.

Former apartheid police officer denies involvement in the death of Neil Aggett: