16 February 2021: for immediate release
THE RE-OPENING OF THE INQUEST INTO THE DEATH OF BAYEMPINI MZIZI
The Foundation for Human Rights (“the Foundation”) and Mr Mfihelwa Mzizi, the son of the late Bayempini Mzizi, have made joint representations to the National Prosecution Authority to re-open the inquest into the death of Mr Bayempini Mzizi and to consolidate the re-opened inquest into his death with the inquest into the death of Dr Hoosen Haffejee.
Bayempini Mzizi was an Inyanga (traditional healer) living in the Durban region. He was perceived to be closely linked to Mkhonto we Sizwe and was arrested on 9 July 1977 on a suspicion of terrorism. Mzizi was detained for more than 35 days. During this period, he was brutally tortured. On 13 August 1977, he was found hanging in his cell at Brighton Beach Police station in Durban. Mzizi’s death in detention occurred 10 days after the death of Dr Hoosen Haffejee at the same police station in similar circumstances.
An inquest was held into the death of Mzizi. On 7 February 1978, Magistrate Odendaal found that Mzizi had committed suicide and nobody was to blame for his death in detention.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) concluded that the South African Police routinely used assault and severe torture against security detainees.
The Foundation for Human Rights is pursuing justice for families of victims of apartheid era crimes under its ‘Unfinished Business of the TRC’ project. The Foundation made an application under the Promotion for Access to Information Act to access the relevant inquest record and transcripts. Its legal team concluded that the circumstances of the death in custody of Mzizi correlate closely with the circumstances of the death of Dr Hoosen Haffejee.
Consequently, the Foundation and Mr Mfihelwa Mzizi instructed their attorneys at the Pro Bono Department of Garlicke and Bousfield Inc. to make representations to the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) in terms of the Inquests Act to reopen the inquest into the death of Bayempini Mzizi and to consolidate this inquest with the reopened inquest into the death of Dr Hoosen Haffejee. These representations were made on 5 February 2021 and a response is awaited.
The re-opening of the Mzizi and Haffejee inquests some 44 years after their deaths in Security Branch detention has the potential to uncover the truth behind these so called ‘suicides’ and facilitate closure for the families. The Haffejee inquest was originally set down for hearing in April 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic. It is likely to be heard in June of this year.
For media enquiries contact:
Lindiwe Sibiya, Media and Communication Officer, FHR at firstname.lastname@example.org and 082 634 7154
For more information about the FHR’s Unfinished Business of the TRC Programme contact:
“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”, Milan Kundera