Anti-apartheid activist and Muslim cleric, Imam Abdullah Haron did not die by suffering a heart attack after falling down a flight of stairs, as alleged by the Security Branch of the apartheid-era South African Police Force in 1969.
He died from injuries he sustained from repeated torture, including being crushed and having significant damage to his soft tissues, the Western Cape High Court found.
The court ruled that Haron’s injuries might have been made worse by problems with his heart that were already there before. All these factors together led to his death in detention on September 27, 1969.
The court overturned the 1970 inquest ruling and held the Security Branch responsible for his death.
Judge Daniel Thulare also named the six police officers - all of whom are now dead - responsible for his death as Lieutenant Colonel Carel Johannes Freysen Pienaar, Major Dirk Kotze Genis, Captain Ebanis Jogiemus Johannes Geldenhuys, Sergeant Johannes Petrus Francois “Spyker” van Wyk, Sergeant Andries van Wyk, and a Major Kotze whose date of death is unknown.
Thulare also ruled that the doctors who gave evidence in the 1970 inquest would now be referred to the South African Medical and Dental Council.
Haron worked for organisations struggling for the liberation of the majority of South Africans and, amongst others, served on a fundraising committee that provided money for the legal defence of victims of the security police.
He was appointed the Imam of the Al-Jamia Mosque in Claremont in 1955 and was a respected Muslim religious leader, a recognised authority on Islamic theology and law, and a spiritual guide. He worked with African anti-apartheid activists in Langa, Nyanga, and Gugulethu. It was through anti-apartheid activist Barney Desai that Haron supported the underground activities of the Pan-African Congress and the African National Congress.
He soon discovered that police had informers in his congregation, and that was how he became known to the Security Branch as a “security risk”.
He became involved in recruiting young men to undertake short courses on guerilla training outside South Africa under the auspices of attending Hajj, a religious Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
Thulare said the arrest of Haron signified two things: first, that he was sold out by a Muslim, and second, that the Security Branch sought to undermine the Imam’s stature and his faith.
“Well aware of this betrayal of the imam, Muslims, including those outside the borders of the Republic, are eagerly awaiting this judgment in the hope that it will set the record straight, not only about the death of the Imam, but about the truth of their faith.
“During a lifetime of oppression, a religious leader, following his faith, stood up and spoke out against injustice and oppression. Not to speak out would have been a refutation of his beliefs, his morals, his principles, and his reason for being. For doing that, he was detained by the [Security Branch],” Thulare said.