Apartheid state covered up 'real circumstances' of Dr Neil Aggett's death, inquest hears

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

After anti-apartheid activist Dr Neil Aggett died in detention in 1982 at the infamous John Vorster Square, "the machinery of the apartheid state immediately swung into action to cover up the real circumstances of his death'', Webber Wentzel’s Howard Varney said on Monday.

Varney gave an opening address on behalf of the family at the reopening of the inquest into Aggett’s death in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

"The former Security Branch of the South African Police was a thoroughly corrupt organisation.

"Wholescale fabrication of evidence and deception were the order of the day.

"They were masters of the cover-up," Varney said.

The first inquest into Aggett’s death in 1982 found that he hanged himself 70 days into his detention.

But Varney said it was a cover-up.

He said there was no correlation between Aggett's detention and the version the Security Branch placed before the court.

"To those former police officers, some of whom will appear under subpoena before this court, we say now is the time for honesty and truth," Varney said.

"Those who persist with charade and cover must be held to account."

He added that over the next few weeks his team would show the court how torture and abuse at the infamous John Vorster Square were commonplace.

"The TRC [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] found that the pervasive and systematic torture inflicted upon detainees paired with the inhumane conditions of their detention, were sufficient to render suicides committed in detention as 'induced suicides' for which the Security Branch was accountable.

"The truth of Neil's death, as a white detainee, would have been a public relations disaster for the State both locally and internationally," Varney said.

He added the Aggett family is of the belief that he was killed "either directly or through unrelenting systematic torture, abuse and neglect which pushed him to take his own life".

"The relevant Security Branch officers must be held responsible," he added.

Varney said their intention was to demonstrate that "there are in fact people and institutions to blame" for Aggett's death.

The family also wants the first inquest findings overturned.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Are you going to keep wearing a mask following the announcement that it is no longer required under law?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
No ways, I'm done
5% - 6164 votes
Yes, I still want to be cautious
90% - 107538 votes
Only certain circumstances
5% - 5508 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.50
-1.3%
Rand - Pound
19.96
-1.0%
Rand - Euro
17.21
-1.0%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.24
-1.0%
Rand - Yen
0.12
-1.0%
Gold
1,810.71
0.0%
Silver
19.89
0.0%
Palladium
1,964.46
0.0%
Platinum
892.00
0.0%
Brent Crude
111.63
+2.3%
Top 40
59,640
-0.8%
All Share
65,662
-0.9%
Resource 10
61,245
-4.1%
Industrial 25
80,264
+1.1%
Financial 15
14,564
-0.8%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE