Notorious policemen must be held responsible for Imam Haron’s murder, lawyer argues

Professor Muhammed Haron, the only son of the late Imam Abdullah Haron, speaks at the 50th anniversary of the late imam’s detention by apartheid police on May 28, 1969. File picture: Henk Kruger

Professor Muhammed Haron, the only son of the late Imam Abdullah Haron, speaks at the 50th anniversary of the late imam’s detention by apartheid police on May 28, 1969. File picture: Henk Kruger

Published Apr 25, 2023


Members of the apartheid Security Branch who tortured and interrogated Imam Abdullah Haron should be held responsible for his death, the re-opened inquest heard on Tuesday.

Haron died at the hands of the notorious Security Branch on 27 September 1969 after spending 123 days in solitary confinement.

In closing arguments, legal defence for the Haron family, Advocate Howard Varney identified those who should be responsible for the murder as:

* Lieutenant Colonel Carel Pienaar, officer in charge of the Security Police, Cape Town;

* Major Dirk Kotze Genis, in charge of Haron investigation;

* JPF van Wyk who reported to Genis;

* Captain Ebanis Geldenhuys

* Sergeant Johannes "Spyker" van Wyk ("Spyker"), and his brother

* Sergeant Andries van Wyk, unclear who he reported to.

All of the Security Branch members died.

Other uniform policemen stationed at the Maitland Police Station where Haron was held were also described as having turned a blind eye to the plight of Haron and ensured that he did not receive medical attention.

Varney argued that they acted with "reckless disregard for the health and life of Haron".

He also submitted that the only former policeman who was still alive and gave evidence at the reopened inquest, Constable Johannes Burger "committed perjury by making false claims under oath".

Varney told the re-opened inquest: " We submit that the probabilities point overwhelmingly to the fact that Imam Haron was subjected to unrelenting torture and vicious abuse by the Security Branch during his detention,

"He was specifically denied medical attention by the Cape Town Security Branch and the Uniform Branch at Maitland Police Station in the period he needed it the most, between 19 and 27 September 1969. He succumbed to the cumulative impact of his injuries endured under torture".

Evidence by expert forensic pathologists Doctors Itumeleng Molefe and Steve Naidoo previously testified in the re-opened inquest that Haron’s injuries reflected multiple and serious physical assaults to the point of immobilisation, "Imam Haron would have lived but for the torture and the denial of medical attention," Varney submitted.

Evidence brought before the inquest showed that instead of being taken for medical examination during the three days prior to his death, a member of the Security Branch brought him pain tablets only obtainable through a doctor's prescription from his home.

The tablets had the same effect as the morphine drug.

Varney also dismissed the Security Branch's version of Haron's death as "fabrication" and further argued that the evidence gathered during the re-opened inquest alo exposed the "disgraceful" conduct of medical doctors as well as "flagrant bias" of the apartheid magistrate and the prosecutor.

Varney also called on Judge Daniel Thulare to overturn the findings of the initilal inquest held in 1970 which found no one responsible for the death allegedly from an accidental fall down a flight of stairs.

"The versions of all the Security Branch witnesses as to what transpired during Haron’s detention, must be rejected out of hand. As regards the "fall down the staircase”version of the police, the probabilities point overwhelmingly to this being an invention to explain away the multiple visible injuries", he argued.

He told the inquest that Haron, whose arrest on 26 May, coincided with the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam ding figure and founder of Islam, "never broke under interrogation".

"He never betrayed his comrades, even though he was interrogated almost daily. This would have enraged his interrogators who increased the intensity of the torture in an effort to finally break him".

Varney also described the "crime of torture" committed against Haron as a crime against humanity, as recognised under customary international law.

He also highlighted that South Africa’s post-apartheid criminal justice system "failed "the family of Haron.

"They had to wait more than 50 years for an accounting with the past. Hundreds of other families are still waiting for truth, justice and closure.

"The Imam’s wife, Galiema missed this reckoning by just a few years. When the Iman died, Shamela, Muhammed and Fatiema were children. Shamela is now 72, Muhammed is 67 and Fatiema is 59. They fought patiently for justice with determination and dignity. This day belongs to them", added Varney.

The state concurred with the submission for the overturning of the initial inquest findings.

State legal representative Adv Lifa Matyobeni submitted that the alleged fall incident was "false and a fabrication" to absolve the security branch members who " had blood on their hands".

"The fact remains Haron was brutally assaulted and tortured. The suspects were known to him".

He also identified the suspects as Genis, Van Wyk. Geldenhuys and Pienaar.

Judge Thulare reserved judgement.

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imam haron