Security branch took great measures to cover up Neil Aggett murder, inquiry told

The anti-apartheid activist was found hanging in his cell at the Johannesburg Central Police Station, formerly John Vorster Square police station, in 1982.

A YouTube screengrab shows former security branch policeman Paul Erasmus testifying at the Neil Aggett inquest on 11 February 2020.

JOHANNESBURG - Former apartheid security branch officer Paul Erasmus is expected on Wednesday to give more details in the High Court in Johannesburg about the events leading up to the death of Dr Neil Aggett.

The anti-apartheid activist was found hanging in his cell at the Johannesburg Central Police Station, formerly John Vorster Square police station, in 1982.

An apartheid inquiry concluded that the trade unionist’s death was a suicide, but his family never accepted that finding.

Erasmus told the inquiry that the security branch took great measures to cover up Aggett’s murder, saying his bosses did not want to see another Steve Biko situation. With the 1982 probe concluding that Aggett committed suicide, Erasmus said this was not the truth.

The former police officer also discussed methods used in the 80s to extract information from political detainees.

“This was another part of me that witnessed what a brutal, vicious, deplorable system the South African police was,” he said.

Erasmus said Aggett’s death was the 55th in police custody. He previously testified before the Goldstone Commission as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about dirty tricks used by the police during the apartheid era.

Erasmus will wrap-up his testimony on Wednesday morning.