Former Security Branch police officer, Nicolaas Deetlefs, says he knew that one of his seniors suspected that he could have hanged anti-apartheid activist Ernest Dipale and staged the scene. But Deetlefs says there are no facts to back up that allegation.
Dipale was found dead in his cell at the then John Vorster Square Police Station in Johannesburg in the early hours of 8th of August 1982.
Deetlefs has confirmed that he had arrested Dipale three days earlier and also interrogated him over two days. He’s been testifying at the inquest into the death of Dipale. The inquest is being conducted virtually.
Deetlefs says Dipale was arrested after former apartheid government spy Joe Mamasela had told them that he and Dipale had been receiving military training in Botswana.
Deetlefs was with Mamasela, who was also working as a police officer on the morning of Dipale’s arrest, three days before his death. He says he interrogated Dipale over two days but denies assaulting him.
He was being cross-examined by state prosecutor Jabulane Mlotshwa.
He says he was at home when he received a call in the early hours of Dipale’s third day in custody, informing him that Dipale had committed suicide. The state pathology’s conclusion was that he was hanged.
Deetlefs has denied going inside Dipale’s cell after he was reported to have committed suicide. But Mlotshwa confronted him with his own statement placing him at the scene.
“On the next page where it says, when Deetlefs arrived in Dipale’s cell last night, he told you if you have anything to do with this you’ll face the consequences on your own?” Mlotshwa inquired
“No, I did not go to the cell,” Deetlefs replied.
“But why are you, in your own statement, saying you were in the cell when Brigadier Olivier confronted you with these words?”
Mlotshwa put it to Deetlefs that the fact that his senior officer suspected him of killing Dipale could not be taken lightly.
Deetlefs will continue testifying when proceedings resume.
Summary of today’s proceedings: