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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 538
Paragraph Numbers 43 to 50
Detention and torture
43 The use of detention without trial by the government intensified in response to the escalating seriousness of the political opposition. Emergency regulations promulgated in 1960 in the wake of the Sharpville massacre provided for wider grounds on which people could be detained but did not provide for substantial periods of detention without trial. Under this legislation approximately 12 000 people were detained. Despite the detention of approximately 12 000 people, banned political organisations such as the ANC and PAC began secretly to regroup and plan armed campaigns.
44 The government responded to the sabotage campaigns launched by the ARM and Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) by introducing in 1963 the General Law Amendment Act (ninety-day detention law). Police were able to forestall the planned general uprising of the PAC’s armed wing Poqo by arresting over 3 000 Poqo suspects. In 1965 the government passed further amendments to detention without trial legislation, doubling the amount of time detainees could be held without trial. In addition to the lengthy periods for which people could be held, detainees were denied access to lawyers and visits from family members. Finally, in 1967, the Terrorism Act was introduced, removing the time limit on detention without trial and providing for indefinite detention.
45 As noted, it was in this context that torture became increasingly systematic as police were subjected to fewer and fewer checks on their conduct, generating an ethos of impunity. As the frequency and severity of torture increased, people began dying in police custody. In 1972, the journal Pro Veritate reported that, between 1963 and 1972, over twenty people detained under South African security laws lost their lives while in custody. Another fifty people made sworn affidavits that they had been tortured during detention. After the introduction of the Terrorism Act in 1967, deaths in detention increased. In 1968, four detainees, Mr Solomon Modipane, Mr James Lenkoe [JB0092/01GTSOW], Mr Nicomedus Kgoathe [JB0113/03NWRUS] and Mr JB Tubakwe, died in quick succession.
46 In April 1963, a number of MK operatives involved in the organisation’s early sabotage campaigns was arrested under the ninety-day detention law. Those arrested included Mr Indres Naidoo [JB00184/01GTSOW], Mr Suresh Nanabhai [JB00184/01GTSOW], Mr Reggie Vandeyar [JB00809/01GTSOW], Mr Abdullay Jassat [JB00184/01GTSOW] and Mr Laloo Chiba [JB00667/01GTSOW]. All claimed that they were tortured. Reggie Vandeyar, Suresh Nanabhai and Indres Naidoo were later sentenced to ten years imprisonment while Laloo Chiba was sentenced to eighteen years in a separate trial.
47 The activists described severe torture, involving the use of electric shocks, suffocation and severe beating leading to concussion and broken bones. Abdullay Jassat described how the security police dangled him from a window:
They then pushed me into a louvre-fitting window and [I was] made to lie on it. I was held by both my feet by the police whilst they were simulating me trying to commit suicide. This was a known method of killing people in detention and they were well co-ordinated in their actions whilst the one was holding my foot and the other making as if to let me fall down from the window. I was then fearing that I was going to die.
48 Jassat escaped from Marshall Square Police Station on 12 July 1963 with Mr Arthur Goldreich, Mr Harold Wolpe and Mr Mosie Moolla.
49 Most of these detainees identified Captain Theunis Jacobus 'Rooi Rus' Swanepoel as one of the perpetrators involved in their interrogation. General van den Berg, head of BOSS at the time, also appears to have also been personally involved in the interrogation of these activists. Reggie Vandeyar described his encounter with the man he believed to be General van den Berg:
At one point, I heard them saying that the ‘big boss’ was coming and they stood to attention when this tall figure came in. He was an erect man, wearing a suit and a Homberg hat. He appeared very severe. He walked straight up to me. I was leaning against the wall. He grabbed my hair and smacked my head against the wall. He shouted, “Who sent you?” I did not respond. He walked straight out without saying anything. The police saluted him and Major Brits went after him. I suspect this man was General van den Berg, the head of BOSS, but I am not certain.
50 The railway police were also involved in the interrogation and torture of the detainees.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE POLICE SYSTEMATICALLY ASSAULTED AND TORTURED OPPONENTS OF THE STATE HELD IN CUSTODY. THE COMMISSION FINDS A DIRECT CORRELATION BETWEEN THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE DETAINED AND THE NUMBERS OF CASES OF TORTURE.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT, IN APRIL 1963, THE SAP, IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE RAILWAY POLICE, WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR SEVERELY ASSAULTING AND TORTURING SURESH NANABHAI, INDRES NAIDOO, REGGIE VANDEYAR, ABDULLAY JASSAT AND LALOO CHIBA, AMONGST MANY OTHERS.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE FORMER STATE, THE MINISTER OF POLICE AND MEMBERS OF THE SAP AND RAILWAY POLICE WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE COMMISSION OF GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN THAT THEY WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE TORTURE AND ASSAULT OF DETAINEES.