Ronnie Kasrils set to testify at Dr Neil Aggett inquest
Johannesburg - Former minister of intelligence and anti-apartheid activist Ronnie Kasrils will on Wednesday take the stand at the inquest into the death of fellow activist Dr Neil Aggett, who died while in detention in 1982.
Kasrils is part of a long list of witnesses who are billed to testify at the inquiry that is going to continue until the end of next month.
Aggett, a medical doctor and trade unionist at the time of his death, was found hanging in his cell at the John Vorster Square police station after days of severe torture.
Some of the prominent activists were detained at the same time as Aggett and have already testified at the inquiry. Testimonies were heard by Treasury deputy director general Ismail Momoniat, cleric Rev Frank Chikane and academic Professor Firoz Cachaila, among others. Cachaila detailed how he was “finished”, “a zombie”, “distressed”, “depressed”, “injured” and weakened just moments before they learnt of Aggett's death.
While a previous inquest into Aggett’s death during apartheid declared it a suicide with no foul play, the activists accused the security police who were interrogating and torturing him of killing him and covering it up.
Fellow unionist Sisa Njikelana detailed how Aggett showed him marks of torture while they were on the second floor of the station.
“I observed that he was pointing to a red mark that was triangular in shape on the outside of his right forearm. It was not an open wound. Neil did not say anything. He just showed me the mark. I understood him to be communicating to me that 'I am being tortured'.
Njikelana recounted how he saw four to six special branch police carrying Aggett’s body on the night of his death.
“The officers were carrying Neil towards the shower area away from the lifts. I believed that they were taking him to a secondary staircase on the other side of the second floor cell area,” he said.
He said he also did not believe that Aggett had voluntarily committed suicide.
“He was extremely committed to his work and dedicated to the Struggle. Neil was also extremely humble. He once told me to tell workers that they should not refer to him as 'Doctor' Aggett as he did not enjoy titles,” Njikelana said.