NATIONAL NEWS - The graphic details of some of what struggle activist Neil Aggett, in his own words, experienced at the infamous John Vorster Square, have been laid bare in an affidavit deposed to by celebrated human rights lawyer George Bizos.
The affidavit was submitted to the High Court in Johannesburg yesterday, as the newly reopened inquest into Aggett’s death got into its third day.
A doctor and unionist, Aggett died at John Vorster Square, now Johannesburg Central police station, on 5 February 1982. The inquest into his death at the time found that no one was to blame. It was, however, this week reopened.
The court heard yesterday that Bizos – who represented the Aggett family at the first inquest – was unwell and might not be able to give oral evidence in court. But in his affidavit, Bizos quoted from a statement that Aggett made to a policewoman about a marathon 62-hour interrogation on the notorious 10th floor. Bizos pointed out that 15 hours after making the statement, Aggett was dead.
Of a man identified only as “a railway police sergeant called Schalk”, Aggett wrote that the officer had hit him with his open hand as well as his fists and had kicked him.
“This Schalk wore a watch which cut my right forearm and it was bleeding. Later, this Schalk went to wash off the blood that was on him,” he said.
He had been kept awake for two straight days, he said, and on the night of 29 January, the police had blindfolded him with a towel.
“They made me sit down and handcuffed me behind my back. I was shocked through the handcuffs,” he said.
At the first inquest, the police maintained this interrogation had been “a success” that had culminated in Aggett implicating his comrades. The police argued he had taken his own life because he felt guilty. Aggett’s sister, Jill Burger, took the stand in court yesterday.
Asked by advocate Howard Varney, of Weber Wentzel – representing the Aggett family in these proceedings – what she believed had happened to Aggett, Burger said: “I believe Neil was severely tortured … and I think he was so severely tortured that accidentally he died. They killed him.”