Johannesburg - The Pietermaritzburg High Court (inquest court) has ruled that the August 1977 death of Dr Hoosen Mia Haffejee was not self-inflicted, in contradiction to the finding of an initial inquest held in this regard.
According to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), in 1977, Haffejee died at the Brighton Beach police station after he was detained there by Special Branch police officers on suspicion of his involvement in anti-apartheid activities.
Regional NPA spokesperson, Natasha Ramkisson-Kara, said that following an interrogation at the police station, Haffejee was found deceased in a cell with his trousers twisted around his neck, suggesting a possible “hanging".
She said that an inquest held by the government at that time ruled that nobody could be held liable for Haffejee's death and that the cause of his death was likely self-inflicted.
However, since the original inquest and following the proceedings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the matter has been referred to the National Prosecuting Authority for the reopening of the inquest.
Ramkisson-Kara added that in reaching his decision, Judge Z P Nkosi considered the evidence from medical experts disputing that Haffejee’s death was self-inflicted, the testimonies of other detainees who also endured interrogations by the SA Police Security Branch, and an inspection in loco of the crime scene, where an expert had reconstructed the scene.
"In overturning the findings of the initial inquest, Judge Nkosi referred to the first inquest as pitiful, substandard, and riddled with bias. He concluded that Haffejee's death was not self-inflicted.
"His recommendations were that the surviving members of the police security branch, as well as others, be held responsible for Haffejee's death," added Ramkisson-Kara
Senior State advocate Denardo MacDonald represented the NPA at these inquest proceedings.
“The NPA welcomes the findings of the inquest court. This is an example of the NPA's TRC component's efforts in addressing the atrocities of apartheid crimes and getting justice for the victims and their families.“