We covered up assault, torture of prisoners: Deetlefs

Nicolaas Deetlefs, a former security branch officer testifying in the Johannesburg High Court.

Former security branch police officer Nicolaas Deetlefs will continue to face cross-examination at the inquest into the death of anti-apartheid activist Neil Aggett in the High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Monday, Deetlet confessed that they covered up the assault and torture of detainees at the then John Vorster Square Police Station, but said that he never witnessed the torture.

Deetlefs started working for the Security Branch Police in 1979, his office was on the 10th floor at the then John Vorster Square Police Station.

He confirmed that he interrogated Aggett about a week before he died and told the court that Aggett looked relaxed when he questioned him about communism, the African National Congress (ANC) and terrorism.

Deetlefs, however, says he felt Aggett was suicidal, saying he had told him he felt bad about revealing certain information about one of his comrades. Deetlefs also said that he never used violence to get information out of a detainee.

Anti-apartheid activist Ebrahim Ebrahim says that he was detained at John Vorster Square in 1986, and was interrogated by Deetlefs, who threatened him that if he didn’t talk, he was going to be tortured.

Ebrahim said, “At one stage he told me that he’s not going to assault me, but he’s going to put me through something, if I survive it, he’ll be convinced that I’m not a human being. As a result, they put me in a very tiny cell. Covered with press pack, the ceiling was covered with thick cupboards, thick boards, and they bombarded me with noise for 24 hours, day and night, until I became destabilised and my nerves cracked.”

Aggett was found hanging in his cell on the 5th of February 1982, and his family disputes claims by the security branch’s that he committed suicide.

The inquest continues with Deetlefs on the witness stand.