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Imam Haron’s family want State to speed up investigation leading to inquest

Imam Abdullah Haron at work in his Mosque library in this 1967. File picture.

Imam Abdullah Haron at work in his Mosque library in this 1967. File picture.

Published Jan 12, 2022

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Cape Town - The family of anti-apartheid activist Imam Abdullah Haron want the State to accelerate and simplify the process of opening an inquest into the death of their father more than 50 years ago.

The Imam died in detention on September 27, 1969 after 123 days in solitary confinement and interrogation. Apartheid’s security police claimed he died from injuries he sustained after falling down a flight of stairs.

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The Imam’s body was bruised and he had two broken ribs. His family has always stood firm that the security police lied, and demanded a fresh inquest into his death.

Imam Haron’s son, Professor Muhammed Haron, said: “Those who committed the murder are already dead as are the magistrate and the prosecutor involved. So what next to open the inquest and why is the State making it so difficult? A cut-off point has to be reached to move on, or to reach an alternative decision.”

He was commenting on a written parliamentary reply from Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola to Al-Jama-ah party leader Ganief Hendricks.

Hendricks had asked what prevented Lamola’s department from reopening the inquests into the deaths of Haron, Nobel Peace Prize winner Chief Albert Luthuli, and others killed by the apartheid government’s security forces.

Hendricks demanded that the inquests be opened within the next few weeks.

“The year 2022 should be a turning point for these families and others,” he said.

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In his response, Lamola said the National Prosecuting Authority had informed him that there had been considerable progress in the past three months.

He said it was necessary for investigators and prosecutors to ensure that the quality of the evidence they gathered was complete and admissible.

“Furthermore, in certain instances, documents that are intended to be admitted as evidence had been declared as classified and this requires a process of declassification.”

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Imam Haron Foundation national co-ordinator Cassiem Khan called for a blanket declassification of information to speed up the process.

“We appreciate the investigations so far, but we want to see greater efficiency and a dedication to get the job done, as well as proactive feedback so that we are not always chasing them for updates. This is what we were promised.”

Regarding the investigation into Chief Luthuli’s death, Lamola said that for the past four months, the prosecutors had been waiting for the procurement of an expert to reconstruct the scene to determine whether there were prospects of reopening the inquest.

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The apartheid regime claimed Chief Luthuli died in 1967 after being struck by a freight train while walking across a trestle bridge over the Umvoti River near his home in Stanger. His family has always disputed this.

Lamola said a three-phase approach proposed by an expert included looking at the design and performance of the locomotive and the impact force associated with the crash, a simulation of three possible scenarios of the crash, and a consultation between the prosecutor assigned to the matter and the expert witness for evidential material.

“The Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation is in the process of canvassing the challenge of costs and experts. This is not an NPA process. Attaching a time frame is not conducive until all the evidence is placed before the prosecutor concerned,” Lamola said.

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