Aggett was subjected to longer hours of interrogation, says Ismail Momoniat
Johannesburg - Treasury’s deputy director general and former anti-apartheid activist Ismail Momoniat has detailed his personal account of police brutality while being interrogated by the security branch police at the John Vorster Square police station in 1982.
Momoniat was taking the stand at the inquest into the death of fellow activist and unionist, Dr Neil Aggett, whose body was found hanging in his cell in the same police station.
He said told the inquiry that he had seen Aggett several times during the first days of his detention as they were taken on the same day to the notorious tenth floor for interrogation.
Momoniat recounted how he noticed during his first ten days of interrogation that Aggett was subjected to longer hours of interrogation.
“The first set of interrogations was intense because it was virtually every day. I was lucky because on Sundays I was free but I noticed that Neil was out the entire weekend, the last weekend that he lived,” he said.
He said detainees were supplied with a pen and paper during their interrogation and ordered to write statements, and were tortured into submission if they refused.
“This was a game of power and many of us when we went into detention we were clear that the key thing is not to think that you are so strong and then you break and then you talk like a canary,” he said.
Momoniat said it was important to sometimes tell the apartheid police what they already knew about the activities of activities of defiance towards the apartheid state, as some of them were conducted in public.
“We are not talking about illegal activities. We did not want the security branch to know how we were organising or who was organising. We tried to minimise the number of names that they would ever be aware of so some of us played a high profile role and some played the low profile role. In my case (statement) I filled it up with all the anti- SAIC (South African Indian Council) campaigns we held in all the towns and to just say what we said, ‘don’t vote for apartheid and don’t for the SAIC’,” he said.
Momoniat said while he was subjected to less torture and assaults compared to other activists who had already taken the stand at the Aggett Inquest, including Barbara Hogan and Rev Frank Chikane, the security branch would grow violent and viciously torture even white activists including Aggett when they did not supply critical information.
He said sometimes the security police branch would reject the statements as they wanted incriminating statements from detainees which would also allow other role players being nabbed.
“Of course they got fed up because they wanted to know what are your links to the ANC and what did you do with Barbara Hogan and they wanted you to implicate both yourself and your comrades. We made sure that those things you don’t do. We just tell them what we know they know,” Momoniat said.