Inquiry hears some anti-apartheid activists kept in isolation

An apartheid inquiry concluded that the trade unionist’s death was a suicide, but the family never believed this.

A YouTube screengrab shows witness Keith Coleman at the Neil Aggett Inquiry on 2 February 2020. Picture: SABC Digital News/youtube.com

JOHANNESBURG - The Neil Aggett Inquiry has heard how some anti-apartheid activists were kept in isolation at the John Vorster Square Police Station in Johannesburg during the 80s.

Aggett was found hanging in his cell in 1982.

An apartheid inquiry concluded that the trade unionist’s death was a suicide, but the family never believed this.

Keith Coleman was the first witness on the stand in the High Court in Johannesburg on Monday.

He detailed how he was tortured by the apartheid security branch.

“I must have been coming back from a shower. Neil was walking towards me. I remember him very clearly looking at the floor. He was very downcast.”

He said he was kept in isolation for most of his stay at the notorious John Vorster Square Police Station.

“Every night I’d sleep in a position where I couldn’t see out the window.”

Coleman was arrested at the age of 21 and he was among the youngest political detainees at the time.

The inquiry continues on Tuesday, with former policeman Paul Erasmus expected to take the stand.