Human Rights & Public Liberties

Human Rights & Public Liberties

Published on: 13 Jan, 2021

Re-opened inquest of Neil Aggett resumes in South Africa

Published on: 19 January, 2021

The inquest into the death of anti-Apartheid activist Neil Aggett reopened in a court in Johannesburg on Monday.

The case, the second Apartheid-era inquest to be re-opened by the National Prosecuting Authority in South Africa, was originally re-opened in 2020. The first inquest to be re-opened was that of anti-Apartheid activist Ahmed Timol.

Aggett, a medical doctor and a trade unionist, was arrested on November 27, 1981, detained under the Terrorism Act, and taken to the notorious John Vorster Square police station (now Johannesburg Central police station), where he was repeatedly interrogated and tortured by Special Branch officers.

He was found hanging from the bars in his cell in John Vorster Square in 1982. The apartheid state’s 1982 inquest into his death found that Aggett had committed suicide after 70 days in detention. But Aggett’s family  has consistently disputed this, claiming that he was murdered at the hands of Security Branch policemen. It was claimed that his hanging was staged.

For many decades the Agett family has been left without answers about Aggett’s death.


Ernest Dipale

According to the Foundation for Human Rights, a South African NGO that has been active in pressuring the state to re-open the inquests, the South African Minister of Justice has made a unilateral decision to combine the re-opening of the Aggett inquest with the inquest of Ernest Moabi Dipale.

Dipale had been charged with furthering the aims of the banned ANC in 1982 and was detained under the Internal Security Act. He was found hanging from his John Vorster Square cell window on 8 August 1982, six months after Aggett died. Dipale had been detained for three days at the time he was found dead.

The inquest is expected to continue for 5 weeks.