The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said it was aware of Judge Motsamai Makume’s ruling that an earlier ruling of the inquest into the death of anti-apartheid activist Dr. Neil Aggett destroyed.
The first inquest in 1982 found that Aggett’s death was suicide.
Four decades after Aggett died in police custody, a reopened investigation into his death found that it was not a suicide and that apartheid police were responsible for his death.
The verdict was handed down Friday in the Johannesburg High Court’s judicial inquiry.
Aggett was found hanging in a police cell in February 1982 while detained in John Vorster Square.
In September 1982, an inquest, led by magistrate Pieter Kotze, found that no one was to blame for the death.
However, Judge Makume overturned Magistrate Kotze’s finding and found that Aggett’s death was the result of actions by members of the Security Department, Lieutenant Stephen Whitehead and Major Arthur Cronwright, stationed at John Vorster Square.
Judge Makume said Magistrate Kotze’s verdict further concluded that Aggett committed suicide because he was ashamed of providing information about his comrades to the security forces.
“Kotze accepted the police version despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”
Judge Makumum then referred his verdict to the NPA for possible prosecution.
Phindi Mjonondwane of the NPA said they will study the verdict to determine what action to take after the verdict.
“The NPA commends the teamwork of investigating officers Colonel Mathipa and Petty Officer Frank Kgamanyane, retired Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Attorney Jabulani Mlotshwa and Senior State Attorney Shubnum Singh. This team worked tirelessly with law firm Webber Wetzel to ensure that witnesses were identified and testified in this inquest, following authorization to hold the hearing by Justice and Correctional Services Secretary Ronald Lamola in 2019.”
Mjonodwane said the NPA recognizes the pain and suffering of the Aggett family, his partner Dr. Elizabeth Floyd (Liz) and many others who have lost loved ones to apartheid-era atrocities.
The NPA added that it has officially said that the unjustified delays in booking perpetrators have been an injustice to the families of these victims and that it will work quickly to implement Judge Makume’s recommendations.