Former detainee recounts seeing Neil Aggett being interrogated

Aggett died in his cell in 1982 in what was later ruled as suicide. But, this was disputed with an inquiry that began on Monday.

Maurice Smithers is one of the witnesses and anti-apartheid activists who is testifying in the inquest regarding Neil Aggett’s death during apartheid. Picture: Ahmed Kajee/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - A former detainee has told the High Court conducting an inspection at the Johannesburg Central Police Station – previously known as John Vorster Square - how he witnessed the interrogation of anti-apartheid activist Neil Aggett by the apartheid security branch police.

Aggett died in his cell in 1982 in what was later ruled as suicide. This was disputed with an inquiry that began on Monday.

Maurice Smithers was detained in Boksburg but was brought to John Vorster Square for interrogation. He said he was sitting in one of the rooms and he observed through a window how officers were attacking Aggett.

GALLERY: Inside the police cell where Neil Aggett allegedly took his life

“One of the guys was also walking around clutching something which looked to me through the glass like a rolled-up newspaper or magazine. He was hitting Aggett with it and I was completely baffled by the fact that I was sitting in this room seeing this happening,” he said.

Smithers said he became angry and wanted to act.

“I noticed that Neil didn’t have a shirt on and he was sweating… he was made to lift up his arms up and down.”

The inquiry into Aggett’s death was ordered by Justice Minister Ronald Lamola nearly four decades after Aggett’s death.