Right the wrongs of 1970 Imam Haron inquest now, NPA urges

Fatima Masoet and her brother, Muhammed Haron, speak to reporters outside the court. Picture: Mwangi Githahu/CAPE ARGUS

Fatima Masoet and her brother, Muhammed Haron, speak to reporters outside the court. Picture: Mwangi Githahu/CAPE ARGUS

Published Apr 26, 2023


Cape Town - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has asked the Western Cape High Court to overturn the findings of the 1970 inquest into the death in police custody of anti-apartheid Struggle activist Imam Abdullah Haron and to “make right what was made wrong”.

Making his closing arguments for the State’s case at the reopened inquest, NPA advocate Lifa Matyobeni said the court had heard enough compelling new evidence to make new findings.

Matyobeni summarised his submissions, saying that as the NPA and the Haron family lawyers were singing from the same hymn sheet, there was no need to repeat many of the arguments presented in the closing argument of the Haron family’s advocate, Howard Varney.

NPA's advocate Lifa Matyobeni prepares his closing arguments. Picture: Mwangi Githahu/CAPE ARGUS

In his arguments, Matyobeni laid into the Security Branch of the apartheid South African Police for their role in what he called the murder of Imam Haron.

He said the version of events given by Security Branch witnesses at the 1970 inquest contained discrepancies and improbabilities, especially with regard to their explanations for the bruises that were found on Haron’s body.

The police said at the time that Haron had died as a result of injuries sustained after he accidentally fell down the stairs of the Caledon Road police station, now known as Cape Town Central police station.

Evidence at the reopened inquest rubbished this theory.

He said the evidence of torture was vital and relevant because if other politically associated detainees were assaulted and/or tortured, Haron would have been no different.

“If the Security Branch lied about the torture, then they lied about everything,” Matyobeni said.

“The police were solely responsible for his well-being. He died at the hands of the Security Police and their prima facie act or omission constituted murder.”

He said the chief suspects were Major Dirk Kotze Genis, who was the commander of the Haron investigation at the Special Branch at Caledon Square, and Sergeant Johannes Petrus Francois van Wyk (Spyker), the officer directly in charge of Haron’s interrogation.

The others were Captain Ebanis Geldenhuys, who was a Security Branch officer, and Lieutenant Carel Johannes Frazier Pienaar, the overall commander of the Security Branch in Cape Town.

Judge Daniel Thulare, who has previously made scathing comments about SAPS officers involved in organised crime and corrupt dealings with Cape Town gangs, said that despite his previous comments there were still some officers who upheld the rule of law.

He singled out the investigating officer for the reopened inquest, Deon Peterson, and said the court had much appreciation for the systemic inquiry he had led, following up all the evidence and ensuring the success of the inquest.

Outside the court Imam Haron’s daughter, Fatima Masoet, congratulated both the family’s lawyers and those for the State, saying they had done “exceptionally well” and that she hoped all the victims of the apartheid police who were still waiting for justice would be inspired to hope by their case.

Judgment in the matter was reserved.

Imam Haron's niece, Zainal Makda, and other members of the Haron family thank their lawyers at the end of proceedings. Picture by Mwangi Githahu CAPE ARGUS

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