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NPA to decide next step after court finds activist Neil Aggett’s death was not suicide

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The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said it will study a judgment by the Johannesburg high court, which found that trade unionist and activist Dr Neil Aggett’s 1982 death was not a suicide, to determine, with the necessary urgency, the course of action to be taken.

“The NPA is on record as having said that the unwarranted delays in bringing perpetrators to book was an injustice to the families of these victims and will work swiftly in applying its mind to implement the recommendations by [Judge Motsamai Makume],” said NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane.

The judgment by Makume on Friday set aside a prior judgment of the inquest into the death of Aggett.

Aggett was found hanging in a police holding cell while in detention at John Vorster Square, now known as Johannesburg central police station, in February 1982.

In September 1982 an inquest, presided over by magistrate Pieter Kotze found that no-one was to blame for the death of Aggett and ruled it was a suicide.

Makume on Friday found that the death of Aggett was brought about by acts committed by members of the security branch stationed at John Vorster Square, among them Lt Stephen Whitehead and Maj Arthur Cronwright.

Makume referred his judgment to the NPA for possible prosecution.

“The NPA commends the teamwork of investigating  officers Col Mathipa and Warrant Officer Frank Kgamanyane, retired deputy director of public prosecutions advocate Jabulani Mlotshwa and senior state advocate Shubnum Singh.

“This team worked tirelessly together with law firm Webber Wetzel to ensure that witnesses were traced and could testify in this inquest hearing, following the authorisation to hold the hearing by justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola in 2019,” Mjonondwane said.

She said the NPA also acknowledged the pain and suffering of the Aggett family, his partner Dr Elizabeth Floyd and others who lost loved ones due to apartheid-era atrocities.

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