Sara Lall and Ishmail Haffejee with a photograph of their brother, Hoosen, who died while in police detention in 1977. Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has asked the judge presidents of the Gauteng and KZN divisions to reopen the inquests into the deaths of Haffajee and Neil Aggett. File photo: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN - Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has asked the judge presidents of the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal divisions to reopen the inquests into the deaths of anti-apartheid activists Neil Aggett and Hoosen Haffejee, his office said on Friday.

"The minister’s decision is in terms of Section 17 A of the Inquest Act No 58 of 1959 and follows an application by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for the reopening of an inquest," it said.

The ministry recalled that it had authorised the NPA's request in April, under then justice minister Michael Masutha, and said it wished to stress that the authorisation remained in place.

Lamola said his administration was committed to ensuring that the justice system dealt expeditiously with cases that came before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up to probe apartheid era rights abuses.

“It is of paramount importance to society that justice is not seen as a mythical concept, but it must be seen to be done. 

"Conceivably this principle becomes more pronounced where the families of Apartheid-era victims are concerned. As the ministry we will be looking into TRC cases that fall under this category, to ensure that justice fully manifests itself.”

Aggett, a doctor and trade unionist, and Haffejee, a dentist, both died in detention. Aggett was 28. The Apartheid authorities concluded that no one was to blame for his death in a Johannesburg cell after he was arrested by security police.

Haffejee was found hanging from cell bars in August 1977 while he was in detention in Durban. The original inquest found that his death was a suicide.

African News Agency (ANA)