The notorious apartheid Special Branch has been found responsible for the murder of political activist and religious leader Imam Abdullah Haron.
Family members, former political detainees, politicians, religious leaders, diplomats and members of the public filled Court 20 in the Western Cape High Court to hear the truth about Haron’s death in police custody on September 27, 1969.
The public gallery broke into shouts of “Viva” and thunderous applause as Judge Daniel Thulare set aside the 1970 inquest finding which exonerated the police and attending medical practitioners for Haron’s death.
This was despite the post-mortem report detailing a broken rib and 27 visible bruises.
Judge Thulare said: “The cause of death of Imam Haron is attributable to the cumulative effect of injuries under torture.”
He found the Special Branch members responsible for the "acts and omissions" leading directly to Haron's death, and named the officers, who included:
* Lieut-Col Carel Pienaar, who died in July 1990, Major Dirk Kotze Genis, who was in charge of the Imam investigation and died in February 2003, Major Kotze, who interrogated Haron, his date of death is unknown, Captain Ebanis Geldenhuys, who died in December 2012, Sergeant Johannes "Spyker" van Wyk, the lead interrogator, who died in November 1990, and Sergeant Andries van Wyk, who also participated in the interrogation, his date of death unknown.
The re-opened inquest was told by the Haron family’s expert pathologists that his death was as a result of torture and the blow to his head with a heavy, blunt object.
Judge Thulare also dismissed the cause of death as being "the fall from a staircase", a reason often used by the apartheid police for the death of many political detainees.
"If we are serious about social justice we cannot twist and turn away from and deviate from the truth. What is known to be true must be set out," said Thulare.
He described Haron's life as "one well-lived, a display of virtues and victories of his Islamic faith".
"His disposition was to choose to do what is right even when it was difficult and and resulted in excruciating pain to his physical body and led to immeasurable struggles for his family, friends and comrades.“
The Haron family welcomed the judgment as bringing some "sort of closure" even though they always believed he was killed by the police.
Haron's son, Muhammad, said: "We hope that other cases still in the queue will have a similar outcome.“
The family wished that the case could have been heard much earlier as the death of Haron's "murderers" meant that no one could be prosecuted.
The only surviving policeman who had contact with Haron before his death, Johannes Burger, was a junior officer at the time and the family advised the court that they were not seeking retribution.
"As Muslims we believe that all those involved have already received their punishment from the Almighty," said Muhammed Haron.
Judge Thulare said the record of the inquest proceedings would be submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Western Cape.
The conduct of four medical doctors who collaborated with the police would also be referred to the South African Medical and Dental Council for attention.