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#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Today's proceedings begin. Maurice Smithers continues testifying. After his evidence concludes, Firoz Cachalia is set to testify. Smithers says he was not kept at John Vorster Square, he slept at Randburg police cells.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest "As soon as you were arrested they would take away your shoelaces, belt, a scarf if you had one," says Smithers. He describes distinctive features - Aggett's chin, beard and hair - which helped Smithers identify Aggett during an interrogation.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Smithers says during the first session, that was the session before he went to the optician, security branch members circled Aggett and conversation occurred. He only heard words on returning from the optician. "Who told you to stop?" And, "Ten more."
"The assumption I made was that he was doing probably push-up [...] I heard the cracking noise, so it sounded as though Neil was being hit with a belt or the officer's hand [...] there was definitely the sound of flesh being struck," says Smithers.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Smithers repeats that he was ably to buy a newspaper in custody on 5 February 1982 and through the paper he learnt of Dr Neil Aggett's death.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Smithers speaks of a banning order issued against him, signed by the Minister of Police in 1982. Judge Motsamai Makume asks Smithers when Smithers witnessed the interrogation and assault of Aggett at John Vorster Square. It was 25 January 1982, he says.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Makume asks if Smithers ever wrote a statement that was then torn up by a security branch member, as Reverend Frank Chikane and another witness testified. "It was never torn up [...] although Captain Van Niekerk [...] did say I was lying."
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Smithers: I think they didn't see a direct connection between me and Neil. I think Barbara Hogan was of more interest. She wrote the 'Close Comrades' list.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Smithers names several people he recalls - Cronwright, Deetliffs, Struwich (spelling uncertain) - but says that Whitehead does not ring a bell for him. Makume thanks and excuses him.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cachalia takes the oath. He is set to testify on his detention in 1981 and 1982. Counsel refers to an affidavit of 2018. Cachalia confirms the contents.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Advocate Thai Scott asks Cachalia about his current occupation (Professor of Law at the University of Witwatersrand) and his work at the time under discussion, which is roughly around 1981 and 1982.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cachalia says, as a student, he was involved in various structures ideologically aligned with the African National Congress (ANC). He describes some people being directly aligned with the ANC and took instruction, while others were more loosely aligned.
An alignment to the philosophy of the ANC, says Cachalia, included a commitment to the ideals of the Freedom Charter, wanting leaders on Robben Island released, one person one vote, opposition to the tricameral system, Bantustans and the lack of democracy in the country then.
#AggettInquest Cachalia describes his work on campus, where he was President of the Black Student Society and active in decision-making structures, he describes the goals of opposing policies they considered unjust, making demands like releasing Nelson Mandela, unbanning parties.
Cachalia says he was involved in organising a school boycott, student work in Benoni, and many of the people who have testified here were part of his network in Johannesburg, linked to a national network, including Trevor Manuel in the Cape, Pravin Gordhan in Natal, and others.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cachalia says he was arrested in November 1981. "So, I was first taken to Vereeniging. Kept there for about a week to ten days and then transferred to John Vorster Square."
Cachalia recalls seeing Prema Naidoo in the Vereeniging charge office, when he was being moved. Naidoo, he says, was manacled and looking dishevelled and Naidoo was able to indicate to Cachalia that he had been beaten up. He knew what was in store for him at John Vorster Square.
"I have memories of what happened but not exact sequence," says Cachalia of his arrival at John Vorster Square. Scott asks about Cachalia's interrogation at the police station. He says for a few days he was left alone in solitary confinement. "That caused some anxiety."
#AggettInquest Cachalia says a young man in a cell opposite his, whose name he does not know, was caught trying to cross the Lesotho border and was terribly treated. Cachalia says at some point they started taking him up to the tenth floor, he thinks, of John Vorster Square.
"You know, apartheid was is an interesting system," says Cachalia, noting black security branch members would accompany detainees to the upper floors while the white security branch members conducted interrogations and assaults.
[NOT VERBATIM] #NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cachalia: an interrogation would start with a beating, cops would push you around, slap you around, then get you to make a statement.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest "The person I most vividly recall was Arthur Cronwright because he was so mean-spirited [...] it was his show," says Cachalia, in reply to a question from Scott on who of his interrogators Cachalia remembers.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cachalia says Cronwright wouldn't be involved in his interrogations but would come in now and then, use foul language referring to Cachalia's ethnicity. On one occasion, his worst beating, he thinks Cronwright was involved but he can't remember so well.
"Whitehead also did that," says Cachalia, speaking of abusive language. Cachalia says he has no visual recollection of Warrant Officer Prince but he sees his own reference to Prince in his statement for the 1982 inquest into Aggett's inquest.
[EARLIER] #NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cachalia remembers Swanepoel as an interrogator, he "has a very clear recollection of his face" and says "they want to break you down, humiliate you, deprive you of your dignity so you are pliable."
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cronwright, says Cachalia, was "a kind of Frankenstein" and he doesn't think that is an exaggeration. He describes this as a "high stakes trial" for the security branch and describes Barbara Hogan as a particular target, among others.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Scott asks Cachalia about his height and weight at the time. Cachalia jokes he hasn't grown much since and that isn't another's fault. He estimates he was some 10 kilograms lighter than he is now. The interrogators, in contrast, were "groot manne".
Cachalia has detailed the methods of torture used by security branch members: beatings to the solar plexus, beatings with a baton, being hit on the soles of the feet which was particularly painful and the wet sack method, pulling testicles, hair, and assaulting one's genitals.
Cachalia says on one occasion when his interrogators assaulted his genitals they assaulted him so badly that he defecated in the room, he thinks he was wearing some clothes, and the event was, for the perpetrators, a source of great amusement and used to humiliate him.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cachalia says the behaviour was arbitrary and the security branch didn't have information for the trial they wanted (something as big as the Rivonia Trial) and, over time, they used more extreme measures to try get the information from detainees.
Cachalia says interrogators would place a wet sack over the face, stuff their mouth, close a detainee's nostrils and punch them in the solar plexus. He says it transported you beyond life, you were asphyxiating, it is like drowning, and very effective in inspiring fear.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cachalia says they never used electric shocks on him but they were wires in the room and interrogators told him they had used them on Reverend Frank Chikane and Samson Ndau. See below for more on Ndau.…
[EARLIER] #NeilAggett #AggettInquest Scott asks if Cachalia ever, during a wet sack session, ever think the interrogators could push him beyond the brink. Cachalia replies it for occur to him, "Someone is going to die. It could be me or one of my other comrades."
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cachalia says that interrogators "could leave you physically and emotionally scarred for life" and describes the apartheid government as one student activists knew was unjust and would resort to extreme measures.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cachalia: We knew the security branch were willing to kill, to take extreme measures.
[EARLIER] #NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cachalia is evidently shaken, moved and upset when he describes the experience of knowing that if you weren't going up for interrogation and torture, someone else was being interrogated and tortured. He persists in testifying.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cachalia describes seeing Aggett at John Vorster Square, he believes, the day before Aggett died. He says Aggett had a gentle visage but when he saw Aggett he thought to himself, "This comrade looks like he's been to hell and back."
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cachalia says when he saw him Aggett "looked terrible" and was "under a lot of stress" and, according to his recollection, the following day Jabu Ngwenya told Cachalia that Aggett was dead. It didn't surprise Cachalia, after what he had seen.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Makume adjourns for tea. The break is set to last 15 minutes.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Proceedings have resumed. Cachalia says of Aggett, "Who knows what happened to him? I didn't trust the police, the security police. I knew what they were capable of, including a cover up." He says they routinely and systemically killed detainees.
"Whether he died in his cell or on the tenth floor, they are responsible [...] chief among them [was] Cronwright," says Cachalia. "I certainly felt like I'm dying [...] they take you to a point and then they stop. Now what is that point?" he says of the wet sack technique.
"I think the door was at least six inches thick [...] a vault door," says Cachalia of the room in which his interrogators employed the wet sack (or, waterboarding) technique. He has described how security branch members would physical restrain a detainee during this.
Cachalia says one was completely under security police control, torture was systemic and "we were all, until Neil died, we were in a terrible situation [...] they would use as much force as they considered necessarily, including gratuitous violence" for the sheer pleasure of it.
#AggettInquest Cachalia says it is possible Aggett took his own life. "I think there is one of only two possibilities," he says. Either security branch drove him to take his own life, but to Cachalia it's as plausible they went too far, killed Aggett and covered it up.
#AggettInquest "The inquest courts were a charade [...] there was no inquest into the truth of what happened [...] it was an abortion of justice," says Cachalia of the 1982 inquest into Aggett's death. "I don't think that the Aggett family got satisfaction with the outcome."
[NOT VERBATIM] Cachalia: I don't think we should be depicted as victims. We did it and we would do it again. We were right and they were wrong. They have a place in our courts and that's OK. That's what we fought for and we won.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cross-examination now begins. Cachalia says Aggett's death by reported hanging with a scarf or kikoi just doesn't add up. He says he did not keep socks in his cell. "Socks are not part of my memory," he says.
Senior Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Jabulani Mlotshwa asks Cachalia further questions. He says on the tenth floor of John Vorster Square there was a room for torture, a tea room, an area for black officers and he only recalls one strong room with a thick door.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cachalia describes a visit to the district surgeon whom he considered "a good man, a moral man" and the doctor noted down Cachalia's injuries. He says it did occur to him the doctor could have been on the side of the perpetrators of torture and abuse.
[NOT VERBATIM] Cachalia: They were flying many kites. They had all sorts of theories. They kept upping the ante throughout this process. It came to a point, then Neil died and their whole political project crumbled. That is what I think is what happened.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Cachalia says the first time he saw Aggett in person was also the last time he saw him in person. He learnt of Aggett's trade union work and profile in detention, from other inmates. Makume thanks and excuses Cachalia.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Proceedings have adjourned for lunch and are set to resume at 13:30. Siza Njikelana is the next witness set to speak.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Proceedings resume. Njikelana takes the oath. Advocate Howard Varney hands up certain documents, including Njikelana's affidavit.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana describes how be became involved in the trade union movement, particularly the South Africa Allied Workers' Union (SAAWU) and he garnered the attention of the special branch, he was detained, asked questions and arrested.
Njikelana says, "Later I became the Vice President [of SAAWU]." Varney asks how Njikelana came to know Aggett. Njikelana describes an arrangement between SAAWU and South African Food and Canning Workers' Union to assist and support one another. This included sharing office space.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana says that when he and others traveled to Johannesburg in order to establish a SAAWU presence in the region, they were introduced to Aggett. He says he could say he met Aggett in the battlefield, referring to worker disputes with management.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana stayed with Aggett, they would sit and chat at his place. "The first thing that struck me was that Neil was a doctor and he was working night shifts at Chris Hani Baragwanath [...] that gave him time to be doing union work during the day."
[NOT VERBATIM] #NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana: Here I was, this young chap coming from East London and I was more, I could say, used to black people. Here was Neil, this white, with commitment to the union.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana says that Aggett encouraged him to not only be an activist but read more. Varney asks Njikelana about the time he was arrested at Aggett's home on the night of 29 May 1981 and detained.
Njikelana: Initially I assumed that the kind of attitude and harshness from special branch officers. I might end up getting a couple of punches and such. I was really grilled about my union work. I was really grilled about my work with comrade Neil Aggett. Whitehead.
On this occasion, as Varney notes, Njikelana was held for ten weeks. Njikelana describes this detention as quite unremarkable. Njikelana says he provided a statement relating to Aggett's death. He dealt with David Dison, and Advocate George Bizos SC was part of the team.
#AggettInquest "It does seem as if there is quite a big problem with this unsigned six page statement," says Varney. He refers to a document from 1982 and checks certain facts with Njikelana, including an assault by Cronwright, him being manacled, and a mark on Aggett's arm.
Njikelana says the mark on Aggett's arm is indelible in his memory. Varney reads a paragraph and asks Njikelana about it, in which he describes hearing a ruckus or hubbub and standing on a toilet to see two Indian men. He says later that is the time he saw Neil being carried.
[FOR CLARITY] #NeilAggett #AggettInquest Varney is going through an unsigned six page statement attributed to Njikelana and produced at the time of the 1982 inquest. "It just does not relate to me," he says of a certain incident.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana repeats he consulted with Dison and Varney notes Dison confirms he consulted with Njikelana. He notes Dison may need to be recalled with regard to the statement.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana speaks of a subsequent arrest and period of detention. He describes a period of interrogation from late December 1982 which he says was led by Steyn and Booysen. Varney names a Lieutenant Johannes Steyn and Warrant Officer Adriaan Booysen.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana says they, Steyn and Booysen, instructed him to write a statement with emphasis on his union activities. This continued into the first week of January 1982. He describes a "continuous drill" of producing his statement.
#AggettInquest Varney notes Njikelana records he was mistakenly taken for interrogation on Boxing Day in 1981, but it became clear that the two waiting interrogators (not Steyn and Booysen) were expecting someone else. He was amused that one of them was nicknamed Karl Marx.
Njikelana was surprised to find a Karl Marx right there in John Vorster Square. He describes Steyn and Booysen as initially being polite and well-mannered. Later it became a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde scenario. He first thought they were distinct from other special branch officers.
Njikelana says that he acquiesced to admit two things that were not true, following interrogation by Steyn and Booysen. One related to funds he agreed (though it was not true) he received from Craig Williamson. The other concerned when and where the Freedom Charter was adopted.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest"I had a heated argument with them because I was just annoyed," says Njikelana. On the Freedom Charter point he says he said," This is just very dom." His challenge, he says, resulted in Njikelana being electrocuted.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest He was really frequently assaulting me, says Njikelana of Cronwright. He adds Steyn and Booysen would keep quiet.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana days, in relation to the disagreement over if and when the Freedom Charter was adopted, specifically at a certain conference. "Leg irons on my ankles. I was made to sit in a crouching position. I was handcuffed around my legs," he begins.
"My hands behind the legs and [...] I would see they were linking my hands to the leg irons over the handcuffs," says Nyampule. He says a dry cloth bag was placed over his head. They rolled up his sleeves, he could feel them wrap cloth around each bicep, and something metallic.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana says he was then electrocuted. He said it was done repeatedly and it was so intense that every time it repeated he fell over onto his side. He says he would become unconscious.
After this electrocution ended, Njikelana wrote a statement containing the two points the security branch members were pressing for him to state, regarding Williamson and the Freedom Charter. Varney asks if Njikelana noticed any injuries; he later detected scabs in the shower.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest "Most of whatever we wanted [was] kept in the property room," says Njikelana. He describes the morning drill, involving collecting items from the property room, showering and returning them to the property room.
Njikelana says detainees spoke among themselves, those who complained about assaults by the special branch would be subject to the full wrath of the security branch. He describes a comrade in East London complaining of assaults to a district surgeon, then enduring further wrath.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana indicates he'd see or pass Aggett incidentally while at John Vorster Square. He describes an instance when Aggett walked into the property room. "He did something strange I would say, he pointed at his forearm and I saw a triangular red mark."
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest "The only interpretation that I could give was that he was being tortured," says Njikelana. When he next saw Aggett toward the end of January 1982, he says, Aggett's condition had worsened.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest "There was a change in Neil [...] that was clear to me, something was wrong with him now," says Njikelana. Another time, "He was really depressed. He wasn't looking good." Njikelana greeted and Aggett nodded, no more.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Varney noted comments by Njikelana in his statement about being woken up either late on 4 February 1982 or 5 January 1982. "There was noise of a gate being opened and that also was combined with a number of low voices," he says.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest "When it's combined with the low voices that's when I got really curious [...] I jumped onto the toilet bowl," says Njikelana. The window(s) of clear glass above the toilet bowl faced onto the passage, he says.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest "I saw Neil being carried through. He was being carried face up. The way Muslim[s] carry their dead. That is how they carried him [...] shoulder high. They were moving him from the lifts toward the showers," says Njikelana.
Njikelana says he was in cell B10. "Where did you think they were taking him?" asks Varney. Njikelana says he could only think (speculate) they were taking him to the staircase.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana reminds Makume this was the middle of the night there was clearly something wrong with Aggett, he assumed Aggett was dead. "My instinctive reaction was that comrade Neil was dead," says Njikelana.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Varney notes Njikelana's viewing of Aggett being carried in the passage was not included in Njikelana's statement relating to the first inquest into Aggett's death, held in 1982.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Varney asks Njikelana of conditions at John Vorster Square after Aggett's death. Njikelana says he was allowed a radio and some better food (acquired from the parent's committee) was allowed, including a steak.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Varney asks Njikelana if that was the best steak Njikelana ever ate and Njikelana quips he wouldn't say so because his mother was a butcher. Some chuckles in court.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Varney asks Njikelana what Njikelana thinks happened, how Aggett died. "My view hasn't changed, comrade Neil was killed. My view hasn't changed, comrade Neil was killed," he repeats.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana says Aggett was deeply dedicated, he would work shifts as a doctor at Chris Hani Baragwanath then briefly sleep on a hard bench before working in the union office, and Aggett was prepared to face the worst.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest "This is a dedicated cadre. This is a person who is prepared to face the worst," says Njikelana of his impression of Aggett. While this is subjective, says Njikelana, he thinks Aggett was not the kind of comrade who would take his own life.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana says Aggett was being carried by between four and six white officers, he only caught a glimpse, he does not think they were using a stretcher and it is possible they were carrying Aggett not to the stairs but to another cell.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Advocate Stephanus Johannes Coetzee asks Njikelana about the omission of the scene of a procession with Aggett's body from his testimony in the first inquest in 1982. Njikelana says that he has asked himself the same question.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest "We have to appreciate it may be that we were unionists but in our minds we were in a state of war," says Njikelana. He later suggests the hostility in the room in the first inquest was weighing on his mind at the time.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana says he knew comrades who would be released and could "disappear" on the way home, and so during the 1982 inquest if he was not asked outright about something he would not volunteer it.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana says he withheld information because he knew what would happen to him and Aggett was no more, while he was mindful of a continued relationship with members of the special branch in whatever form, and they were in court during the inquest.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana says that the consequence of revealing what he had seen (when he peeped into the passage while standing on a toilet bowl in his cell at John Vorster Square) during the 1982 inquest could have been a bullet in his head and, or more tortures.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana says he concedes and he can be convinced it was an error of judgement, remember he was testifying in front of special branch members, in contrast he is now able to be expressive. He is not afraid now, the environment is different.
Njikelana says that Aggett was dead, his thinking was to pick up the spear and move forward. He told the lawyers and discussed with his comrades. It was a complex life they lived, it may have been the wrong decision but one had to make complex decisions in the spur of the moment.
Makume asks Njikelana if the lights were on in the corridor and in his cell when he saw several police officers carrying Aggett. "Were those faces familiar or were you seeing those people for the first time?" he asks. Njikelana says he was paying attention to the carried person.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana says he saw Aggett's whole body and Aggett was clothed. Makume refers to a picture of Aggett hanging. He asks Njikelana if this shows how Aggett was dressed when he saw the body. "I wouldn't contradict this kind of clothing," says Njikelana.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana was formally informed of Aggett's death the following day. Makume asks how he came to learn of it. He bumped into someone from East London, a captain, en route to interrogation and he informed Njikelana of Aggett's death.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Njikelana: "Well, Captain Olivier," I said. "Anything can happen here." He said, "Yes, anything can happen here." My interpretation of that "anything can happen here" was that it was a warning to me.
#NeilAggett #AggettInquest Makume thanks Njikelana. He adjourns.
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