Anti-apartheid activist and former African National Congress (ANC) Chief Whip in Johannesburg Prema Naidoo says those who were involved in apartheid crimes must be prosecuted and brought to book.
He’s been testifying at the inquest of unionist Dr Neil Aggett in the Johannesburg High Court. Naidoo was detained at the then John Vorster Square Police Station at the same time as Aggett.
Aggett was found hanging in his cell on 5 February 1982.
Naidoo, whose real name is Parmanathan, has also detailed the severe torture he was subjected to by members of the security branch during his detention.
He was arrested in November 1981 for his involvement in anti-apartheid activities. He says upon his arrest his children were told they’d never see him again.
After being processed, he was taken to the 10th floor for interrogation at the John Vorster Square Police Station. He testified about how he feared he’d be killed by security branch police.
“Major Konrad was abusive to me, he then introduced me to a Major RB. I’m not sure whether it was Konrad or RB who said to me, when we’re finished with you, we’re gonna call this place Prima Heights. My name is Prema, but they used to call me Prima. I felt intimidated and I felt that they were going to harm me and possibly even kill me. They said that it used to be called Timol Heights, and I know that Timol was thrown from the 10th floor, I didn’t know Timol personally, but I followed the case very closely, you know he was murdered and I thought they were gonna do the same thing to me.”
Naidoo was a third anti-apartheid activist this week to have gone into detail about the severe torture he suffered at the hands of the security branch. Former Director-General in the Presidency Reverend Frank Chikane and Former Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan also shared their stories this week.
Chikane said one officer advised him to commit suicide, as they would kill him anyway, but that it would be a long and painful process.
“I was taken to a window, 10th floor, where I was told this is where they took out Timol, and that they were going to throw me out of that window if I don’t talk. I didn’t tell them what they want, and they actually did an action, put me at the window, as if they’re throwing me out, and brought me back. So they used every method they could, hopefully to try and break you so that you can sign a statement or agree with them about what they want from you.”
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Former Minister Barbara Hogan told the court that after being severely assaulted, she was warned she’d be taken to a mine and killed if she revealed what had happened to her – to a doctor who was going to see her. She says she became distraught and attempted to take her own life.
“I was desperate; I saw no way out of my getting out of that situation because I knew of many people who died in detention. I had friends who had been tortured very badly at John Vorster Square. I knew what they were capable of and I just saw myself being tortured to death. For information I simply could not provide. Anything that would kill me I tried. I did not want to hang myself because I did not have the knowledge of how to hang myself. Eventually I took the tablets, of whatever it was, and I lay down. I had a dressing gown, cord which they had overlooked. And I tied it very tightly around my neck, I was virtually suffocating.”
She only passed out and woke up the following day.
Before proceedings adjourned on Friday, Naidoo got emotional when he spoke about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
“I always respected and admired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it was not perfect, it had it flaws. And the people that interrogated me, Neil and others never came forward to give their side of the story. I think they were given an opportunity to come forward. I gave evidence, my whole family, every member of our family gave evidence at the TRC. They didn’t. So they need to be prosecuted and the law must take its course.”
Naidoo will continue giving evidence on Monday.
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