The reopened inquest into the loss of life of Neil Aggett hears about his 60-hour interrogation that proof has proven was much less about strong police work and extra a marketing campaign to interrupt a person.
“Monumentally incompetent”, “blundering” and “silly”, are how the Safety Department’s investigations and interrogations of political detainees had been on Thursday described in courtroom on the reopened inquest into the loss of life of commerce unionist Dr Neil Aggett at Johannsburg’s John Vorster Sq. on February 5 1982.
Former Safety Department policeman Daniel Elhardus Swanepoel (72), who took a severance bundle in 1997, leaving the pressure as a colonel after 32 years, was rankled at counsel for the Aggett household, advocate Howard Varney’s depiction of one of many key duties of these engaged on the 10th ground of John Vorster Sq..
However when pressed, Swanepoel needed to concede that sure issues didn’t add up concerning how the 60-hour interrogation of Aggett between 28 January and 31 January was performed. Aggett was tortured throughout that point, together with being electrocuted and sleep disadvantaged. He was additionally not fed for prolonged durations.
Swanepoel couldn’t convincingly clarify inconsistencies and discrepancies in his testimony, failings in fundamental communication of technique between officers, and why it will appear he was hopelessly ill-prepared for the 12-hour interrogation he performed on Aggett.
When Swanepoel took the stand on Wednesday he solid himself as a “gentleman” policeman who didn’t imagine in bodily assault or torture, saying he thought of himself “soft-natured and first rate”, with the flexibility to win over the belief of detainees.
As his day-and-a-half on the stand progressed, he conceded that sleep deprivation and forcing somebody to face for lengthy hours (until they couldn’t stroll or until their ft had been swollen) could be thought of torture, as would pressuring and insulting somebody.
It was additionally identified to him by advocate Shubnum Singh that detainees, together with Ismail Momoniat and Cedric Mayson, had named him as one of many law enforcement officials straight concerned in assaults they endured whereas in detention, together with being held down whereas they had been brutally assaulted.
Swanepoel testified that he met Aggett solely as soon as, on 30 January 1982. He mentioned he was not conscious of Barbara Hogan’s “Shut Comrades” listing on which Aggett’s identify appeared. The listing was the rationale why Aggett had been arrested.
Swanepoel mentioned he didn’t know that Aggett had already made an announcement clearly setting out that he was not a part of the underground. It outlined his political opinions, his causes for being a commerce union organiser, which was not unlawful, and why he selected to not be concerned with a banned organisation on the time.
Varney learn from Aggett’s assertion, My views on the ANC, SACTU, SACP and White Left, that he wrote in January 1982.
Aggett wrote: “I help the ideas of the Freedom Constitution as the premise for a democratic non-racial society – one man one vote. Nonetheless, I’m not a member of the ANC. They appear to be extra lively exterior of South Africa than inside and never very lively in areas that have an effect on folks’s every day lives. I imagine we should battle in opposition to apartheid in ways in which contain folks of their day after day struggles on the manufacturing unit ground and within the communities…”
Based on Swanepoel, he and Visser managed, within the final 10 or 15 minutes of their 12-hour interrogation, to attain the breakthrough that acquired Aggett to lastly declare that he was ‘keen to speak the reality’.
Swanepoel agreed that this assertion was rational and clear. As such, it ought to have been sufficient to verify that Aggett was not an individual of curiosity for the Safety Department.
Choose Motsamai Makume requested Swanepoel whether or not he would have acted in another way had he been conscious of the assertion’s existence. Swanepoel replied that the interrogation would have proceeded in another way, however he didn’t have the authority to cease an interrogation.
Varney put it to him that it was “monumentally incompetent” that essential info pertaining to the Aggett interrogation was not shared with him earlier than he stepped into the room with Aggett.
Swanepoel mentioned this was as a result of “a must know foundation” existed.
Varney put it to him that the interrogation performed out the best way it did as a result of there was by no means any intention to conduct a methodical, correct interrogation. “It was to interrupt Dr Aggett’s will to withstand in order that he would confess.”
Swanepoel mentioned he was not conscious that Aggett was scheduled for an interrogation that will final for 60 hours. Nonetheless, it had been recorded that he mentioned to colleagues at a briefing to verify shifts: “I don’t assume he’ll final until Sunday” – which he mentioned he couldn’t recall saying.
Based on Swanepoel, he and Visser managed, within the final 10 or 15 minutes of their 12-hour interrogation, to attain the breakthrough that acquired Aggett to lastly declare that he was “keen to speak the reality”.
However at this seemingly vital level of interrogation (after Aggett had apparently held out for greater than 65 days in detention), Swanepoel merely knocked off from his shift and handed over to the policemen subsequent on the roster.
Singh additionally requested what “reality” Aggett was supposedly able to reveal. She identified to Swanepoel that within the first inquest and now on the final days of the 2020-2021 inquest Aggett has by no means been proved to be mendacity about something.
“What you’re saying is inconsistent with the reality,” Singh mentioned.
Swanepoel additionally claimed, as he did on the authentic 1982 inquest, that he was in possession of categorised info incriminating Aggett. Nonetheless, Swanepoel couldn’t divulge to the present inquest the particular nature of the data or the place that info is.
Varney known as it a fabrication, one other manner for the Safety Department to cowl up and obfuscate.
Earlier, Swanepoel testified that Aggett was not returned to his cells as a result of he mentioned he most well-liked to be on the 10th ground within the interrogation room.
Singh rubbished this as one other inconsistency, particularly as she mentioned Aggett was supposedly allowed to have books and treats like sweets and biscuits in his cell, if the police’s model of what was in Aggett’s cell was true.
On his final day on the stand Swanepoel mentioned he had no regrets in his police profession, from the day he joined as a 16-year-old, and that he had carried out his duties to the very best of his talents.
A part of this was about loyalty, he agreed, when Varney requested about qualities of a very good Safety Department policeman.
Varney mentioned this loyalty concerned “not splitting on one another” or stepping out of line. He then requested rhetorically if the Safety Department policemen who’ve appeared earlier than the inquest maintain a curious sense of being above the regulation. Even now, revealing little, and “having no concern of prosecution or investigation”. DM