To: All Media
ATT: News Editors, Human Rights Reporters
For Immediate Release
15 September 2023
Press Release: Findings in the Re-Opened Haffejee Inquest
Press Statement issued by the Foundation for Human Rights and Anwar Jessop Attorneys
The curtain finally came down on the long and protracted struggle waged by the Haffejee family to get justice for Dr Hoosen Haffejee who died in detention at Brighton Police Station on 2 August 1977. The family never accepted the finding of magistrate Trevor Blunden at the first inquest that Dr Haffejee had committed suicide by hanging himself with his trousers.
On 13 September 2023 Judge Zaba Nkosi handed down his judgment in the reopened inquest into the death of Dr Haffejee, and confirmed the family’s belief that Dr Haffejee did not commit suicide but was brutally tortured and killed by members of the Security Branch of the South African Police (SAP). Judge Nkosi did not mince his words when he described the first inquest as “a substandard inquiry to rubberstamp the police version, conducted by a disgraceful magistrate and aided by a disinterested prosecutor”. In his judgment Judge Nkosi acknowledged that detainees were routinely subjected to torture to break their resistance. The torture included assaults, electric shocks, suffocation and verbal abuse as testified by former activists Coastal Govender, Mohamed Timol, Yunus Shaik and Raymond Suttner. The torture administered to Haffejee was confirmed by former Security Branch officer Mohan Deva Gopal who, in addition, informed the court that officers were instructed to fabricate stories to cover up the torture of detainees.
Judge Nkosi found that Dr Haffejee did not commit suicide but died as a result of a cardiac incident while under torture or a cardiac incident caused by ligature constriction applied by Security Branch members whilst unconscious or debilitated by torture. Judge Nkosi found that the Security Branch officers primarily responsible for torturing and murdering Dr Haffejee were Captain Petrus Lodewikus Du Toit and Lieutenant James Brough Taylor, both now deceased. Du Toit died in 2008 and Taylor died in 2019, only few days after the Minister of Justice announced the reopening of the Haffejee inquest.
Judge Nkosi also found that a number of other Security Branch officers and and SAP uniformed members stationed at Brighton Police Station played a role in the torture of Dr Haffejee, and the cover-up of his murder. Judge Nkosi has recommended that the National Prosecuting Authority considers bringing criminal charges against the surviving police officers and individuals implicated in the Haffejee’s murder and cover-up, as well as charges of perjury at the reopened inquest, including Mohan Deva Gopal, Vera Ragalulu Naidoo, Derek Hugh Naude, Johannes Meyer and Matheevatinee Benjamin.
The FHR would like to recognise the commitment, dedication and the hard work of members of the Haffejee family, Senior State Advocate Shubnum Singh (who played a critical role in getting the Haffejee re-opened inquest off the ground and who has supported the family throughout the process), Warrant Officer Frank Kgamanyane and Senior State Advocate Macdonald for their commitment to this matter.
The positive outcome of the re-opened inquest would not have been possible if not for the hard work, perseverance and dedication of FHR’s private investigator Retired Brigadier Clifford Marion, the pro- bono attorney Anwar Jessop and our counsel, Advocates Howard Varney and Zakaria Suleman. We thank them for their work and continued support.
The legal team and the Foundation for Human Rights share in the elation of the Haffejee family with the outcome of the reopened inquest and will monitor the situation to see if the recommendations of Judge Nkosi are followed.
Finally, we once more wish to pay tribute to the courage and commitment of Hoosain Haffejee, and to the cause and ideals for which he gave his life. While some measure of justice has now been achieved in the matter of his own death his spirit will surely not rest easy until truth and justice prevail in the many unresolved cases in which his fellow activists gave their lives.
To access the full record of papers filed in the reopened inquest in the Dr Hoosen Haffejee matter see: https://unfinishedtrc.co.za/hoosen-haffejee/#1631621270858-899246ce-cc28
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Foundation for Human Rights
The Foundation for Human Rights is a non-profit human rights organization that works to protect and promote human rights in South Africa. The FHR was established in 1996 to address the historical legacy of apartheid, and to promote and advance transformation and human rights based on the new Constitution. The FHR implements four main human rights programs: the Gender Based Violence and Femicide Programme (known as “The Masibambisane Programme”), the Unfinished Business of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Programme, the Community Engagement Programme, and the Access to Justice Programme. Over the last two decades, the FHR has played a major role in promoting the rights of victims of apartheid crimes through supporting the recommendations of the TRC, including justice and accountability for past crimes, reparations, and access to the TRC archives.