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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 405
Paragraph Numbers 68
Deaths in detention
68 Western Cape activists Looksmart Ngudle and Imam Haron died in detention during this period. The Commission was not able to make a finding concerning the death of PAC member Bellington Mampe [EC2718/97QTN] in 1963.
The death in detention of Looksmart Ngudle
MK commander Mr Looksmart Khulile Ngudle (41) [CT00504, CT00517, EC0127/96CCK], was detained on 19 August 1963 under the Ninety-Day Detention Act and died on the night of 4/5 September in Pretoria. The police claimed that he had hanged himself in his cell with the cord of his pyjama trousers. Counsel for the State said that Ngudle had killed himself because he had given the police information which led to arrests the day before his death. He was banned posthumously on 25 October.
Evidence by witnesses of electric shock and other torture in detention was ruled by the magistrate as irrelevant. A Pretoria magistrate who visited Ngudle the day before his death reported to the police that he complained that he was assaulted and that he had coughed blood. The inquest magistrate found that the cause of death was suicide by hanging.
The death in detention of Imam Haron
Imam Haron (45), a respected leader in the Muslim community and former editor of Muslim News, was detained under the Terrorism Act on 28 May 1969, held at Caledon Square police station until 11 August and then transferred to the cells at Maitland police station where he was found dead on 27 September after 122 days in detention. He had apparently been suspected of recruiting PAC members.
The inquest found multiple bruising, which had been caused at different times by ‘a fair amount of trauma’, and a broken rib. Police claimed that he had fallen down some stairs after losing his balance. Between 17 and 19 September, the Imam had been taken away from the police cells to an undisclosed place for interrogation. The then Major Dirk Kotze Genis and Sergeant van Wyk were responsible for the interrogation. The Haron family’s legal representative argued that Imam Haron had been beaten in efforts to extract a statement from him, and that the trauma he suffered caused a pulmonary embolism which triggered a heart attack.
The presiding magistrate found that the likely cause of death was myocardial ischaemia, due in part to ‘trauma superimposed on a severe narrowing of a coronary artery’. It was found that the bruises were not caused by the fall. He declined to rule on whether the death was brought about by any act or omission involving or amounting to an offence on the part of any person, finding merely that “a substantial part of the said trauma was caused by an accidental fall down a flight of stone stairs. On the available evidence I am unable to determine how the balance thereof was caused.”
A number of publications consulted during the Commission’s investigations added weight to the questions raised in the inquest report.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT A CONSISTENT GROUP OF INDIVIDUALS WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR DIFFERENT FORMS OF TORTURE OF POLITICAL DETAINEES IN THE REGION DURING THIS PERIOD. THE GROUP CONSISTED OF WARRANT OFFICER ‘SPYKER’ VAN WYK, A SERGEANT GREEFF, A SERGEANT VAN ROOYEN AND CERTAIN PERSONNEL FROM OTHER REGIONS INCLUDING COLONEL ANDY TAYLOR, SERGEANT FERREIRA AND A CERTAIN MR VAN DER MERWE. THESE INDIVIDUALS WERE DEPLOYED AT BOTH REGIONAL AND NATIONAL LEVEL.
IN THIS CONTEXT, THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT IT IS HIGHLY LIKELY THAT THOSE WHO DIED IN CUSTODY EXPERIENCED TORTURE PRIOR TO THEIR DEATHS, AND THAT THEIR DEATHS WERE A DIRECT OR INDIRECT RESULT OF SUCH TORTURE.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THERE IS EVIDENCE OF WIDESPREAD TORTURE OF DETAINEES IN PRETORIA DURING THIS PERIOD, AND THAT MR LOOKSMART NGUDLE’S DEATH WAS A DIRECT OR INDIRECT RESULT OF SUCH TORTURE. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT, ALTHOUGH IT IS NOT IN A POSITION TO REVERSE THE FINDINGS OF THE INQUEST COURT, THE DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL OF THE IMAM ABDULLAH HARON WAS UNDOUBTEDLY A GROSS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS, AND HIS DEATH WAS CAUSED DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY BY HIS EXPERIENCES AT THE HANDS OF THE SECURITY POLICE.