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Inaccuracies in the 1978 inquest of Dr Hoosen Haffejee’s death laid bare

Sarah Lall and Ishmail Haffejee with a photograph of their brother, Hoosen, who died while in police detention in 1977. Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency

Sarah Lall and Ishmail Haffejee with a photograph of their brother, Hoosen, who died while in police detention in 1977. Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency

Published Aug 17, 2021


The reopened inquest into the death of Dr Hoosen Mia Haffejee on Tuesday heard evidence from a police officer tasked with reopening the probe into Haffejee’s death in Security Branch police detention in early August 1977 at the Brighton Beach Police Station.

Under cross-examination by the evidence leader for the State, Advocate Dernardo Macdonald, the first witness Frank Kgamanyane, a warrant officer in the South African Police Service (SAPS) stationed at the Crimes Unit and a member of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) with 14 years’ experience with the SAPS and five years’ experience in DPCI, detailed how his superiors had been brought him into the Haffejee case.

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Kgamanyane had been tasked with reopening the inquest into Haffejee’s death in March 2017.

Kgamanyane said that during the course of his investigation he made attempts to trace the original case docket and original inquest records pertaining to Haffejee at Brighton Beach Police Station where he was informed by a Colonel Ngubane that there were no records that could be traced.

He said that he had also made further attempts to obtain the inquest documents with the Durban Magistrate’s Court but was told by the Area Court Manager that according to Department of Justice policy all inquest documents were destroyed after a period of 10 years from the inquest.

Kgamanyane also detailed the documentation that he had managed to get relating to Haffejee’s death including 15 pictures, a mixture of colour copies and black and white photographs showing the scene of Haffejee’s death at the Brighton Beach Police Station cells in 1977.

“From the file that I received from my colleague Captain Ben Nel I received a number of documents including the downloaded copy of findings into the death of Dr Haffejee by Magistrate Mr TL Blunden, inquest number 1951/77 which was delivered on the 15th of March, 1978.

“Also a downloaded transcript from Documentation Centre of the University of Durban Westville titled ’Voices of Resistance: Interview with Yusuf Haffejee’ on 25 May, 2002 and a downloaded copy of a document from the South African Historical Archives (Saha),” Kgamanyane said.

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He said that he had made contact with Haffejee’s family around February and March 2018 when he visited the family’s home in Pietermaritzburg where he met with Haffejee’s sister Sara Lall and brother Ismail Haffejee.

“I was attempting to trace any information that could assist me in the further investigation of this matter. Ms Lall pointed out a room that was previously utilised by her late brother Mr Yusuf Haffejee, I was informed that Yusuf had undertaken extensive investigation on his own after Dr Haffejee passed away,” Kgamanyane said.

He added that he had spent around two days locating documents in the room, in Lall’s presence, where he found a 17-page document of the findings made by Magistrate Trevor Blunden who had presided over the 1978 inquest into Haffejee’s death which found that Haffejee had committed suicide.

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