Family’s search for solace: Haron inquiry judgment expected in reopened inquest

Closing arguments were heard by Judge Daniel Thulare in the Imam Haron inquest. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Closing arguments were heard by Judge Daniel Thulare in the Imam Haron inquest. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 9, 2023


As judgment was expected on Monday in the reopened inquest into the death of anti-apartheid martyr Imam Abdullah Haron, the family said they were hopeful that justice would prevail.

Haron, a political activist and Imam at Cape Town’s Stegman Road Mosque, was arrested on 28 May 1969, under the Terrorism Act.

He was held in solitary confinement for 123 days, subjected to near daily interrogations.

He died in police custody at Maitland Police Station on 27 September 1969, with the police at the time claiming he had fallen down steps.

Representing the family at the re-opened inquest on a pro bono basis, Webber Wentzel and the Foundation for Human Rights, said they awaited the judgment with a profound “sense of hope and anticipation”.

“We hope this judgment will bring more than a legal decision, it is a promise of closure for the grieving Haron family who have long sought answers and justice. As we look forward to the verdict, we remain committed to the pursuit of truth, justice, and the honouring of the Imam's legacy.

“May the judgment bring solace to the family and inspire positive change in our society,” said the family.

The family said they had to sit for decades with a “fraudulent finding” by Magistrate JSP Kuhn, who penned a four-paragraph finding exonerating the Security Branch from any due responsibility for their loved one’s death.

By the time of the reopened inquest, the two persons of material interest, Security Branch officers Johannes ‘Spyker’ van Wyk and Dirk Genis, had died.

During the inquiry, the court heard testimonies from a number of witnesses including Haron’s children – Fatiema Haron-Masoet, Muhammed Haron, and Shamela Shamis, and the last living apartheid cop who interacted with Haron on the day that his lifeless and bruised body was found in his solitary confinement.

Burger claimed ignorance about the treatment of political detainees.

However, having seen post-mortem drawings, Burger believed Haron, “died due to torture”.

The family, however, indicated that they did not wish to see Burger prosecuted.

Webber Wentzel said: “Significantly, the Haron family informed the judge at the conclusion of the reopened inquest that they did not wish to see Burger prosecuted. Burger was one of the youngest and lowest-ranking officers at the time of the Imam’s death. The family expressed their sentiment that ‘there is a certain unfairness in holding a person of such stature as the only person criminally liable in such circumstances’.”

Expert witness and forensic pathologist, Dr Itumeleng Molefe, who was called as a witness to assist the State, submitted during testimony that Haron’s injuries were mostly likely the result of assault.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission noted: “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.”

Cape Times