Cape Town - The authorities are looking into the death of trade unionist and doctor Neil Aggett in detention more than 30 years ago.
In a letter in reply to Brian Sandberg, co-ordinator of the Neil Aggett Support Group, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe refers to the government’s commitment to “ensuring that justice is served in the Dr Neil Aggett case”. Radebe says in the letter that the matter has been receiving attention from the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit in the National Prosecuting Authority as well as the Hawks.
Radebe says in the letter that the matter has been receiving attention from the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit in the National Prosecuting Authority as well as the Hawks.
Although Radebe’s letter is dated July 9, Sandberg has only recently released the information in it.
In an open letter to Radebe in February, the group called for Aggett’s interrogators - Lieutenant Steven Whitehead and his superior at the time, Major Arthur Cronwright - to be prosecuted.
In his response, the minister wrote that any decisions taken regarding the case would be made public “at an appropriate stage”.
“I trust that this information will alleviate the concerns of the Neil Aggett Support Group regarding the government’s commitment to the satisfactory resolution of this matter,” it read. Aggett, organiser for the Food and Canning Workers’ Union, was detained with 17 other trade unionists.
He died on February 5, 1982, following an interrogation of more than 60 hours. He was 28.
It was alleged that he had committed suicide by hanging.
An inquest was held in Johannesburg in 1982, and the magistrate held that no one was to blame.
In a joint press statement on Monday, the Neil Aggett Support Group, the Khulumani Support Group and the Food and Allied Workers’ Union welcomed the news that Aggett’s case was “receiving attention”.
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report found that then-police officers (Cronwright and Whitehead) were ‘directly responsible’ for Aggett’s ‘condition’, which ‘led him to take his own life’ on February 5, 1982 as a result of ‘intensive interrogation’.
“Neither officer applied for amnesty from the TRC and thus could face potential prosecution under the TRC Act,” the statement read.