'I was not going to allow Aggett to have a scarf in his cell' - ex-Security Branch cop tells inquest

2020-01-28 13:48
Anti-apartheid activist Dr Neil Aggett. (Media24, Beeld, file)

Anti-apartheid activist Dr Neil Aggett. (Media24, Beeld, file)

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A former Security Branch member has told an inquest that anti-apartheid activist Dr Neil Aggett complained to him about being frustrated by his interrogators.

Joe Nyampule, who worked at the notorious John Vorster Square, now called Johannesburg Central police station, testified on Tuesday at the inquest into Aggett's death sitting in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. Aggett allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell on February 4 or February 5, 1982.

Nyampule said before his death Aggett complained to him when he visited his cell.

"He complained to me that he didn't know what to do anymore because whenever he wrote a statement, it would be torn into pieces and [he'd be] ordered to rewrite another statement. I don't remember and won't dispute that on February 4, 1982, he made a statement to a police officer where he complained about being assaulted by Security Branch members," Nyampule said.

EXPLAINED: Who was Neil Aggett and why was he important?

He continued that after being informed by his colleagues that Aggett had allegedly committed suicide, he didn't get satisfactory answers from his bosses as to how Aggett killed himself.

"At the time, I was never shown pictures of the [holding] cell where he allegedly committed suicide or a photo of the scene. I recently saw a photograph depicting Aggett hanging.

"I was also recently shown a picture of a scarf which Aggett allegedly used to end his life. I only saw that recently before this inquiry, not at John Voster [Square]," he said.

Joe Nyampule

Former security branch officer Joe Nyampule. (Ntwaagae Seleka)

Nyampule said it was impossible that Aggett would have had a scarf in his cell. He said all extra clothing and toiletries were kept in shelves away from the cells.

"I was not going to allow Aggett to have a scarf in his cell. Even if he had asked me to keep it in his cell, I was not going to allow that," he said.

Nyampule said he would often see white officers assaulting detainees, and some would stop when they saw that he was watching. But he never saw Aggett being assaulted.

'She laid her chin on my neck'

He recalled that white officers would take turns to interrogate a single detainee on consecutive days.

Nyampule said one day his senior called him to go to the ninth floor of John Vorster Square to obtain fingerprints from a female detainee.

"I went there and saw Marion Spark, who told me that she didn't want her fingerprints [to be] obtained by a white officer and wanted a black officer to take them. She told me in full view of my white colleagues that she hated white people.

"She then came closer and I took her fingerprints and she laid her chin on my neck. It never happened before that black officers would obtain fingerprints from a white person. My colleagues' faces changed, and some walked around the ninth floor.

"Later a general came to me and asked me if it was nice for a white female person to come closer to your body, taking her fingerprints. I didn't answer him. I was afraid that if I had responded, I was going to be assaulted or something bad would have happened to me," Nyampule said.

The inquest continues. 

Read more on:    neil aggett  |  johannesburg  |  crime  |  courts

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