Family welcomes states’s decision to reopen inquest into Hoosen Haffejee’s death

The family of the late Pietermaritzburg anti-apartheid activist and dentist Dr Hoosen Haffejee have welcomed the state’s decision to reopen the inquest into his death in 1977.

The family were informed this week that Minister of Justice Michael Masutha had earlier this month signed the order recommending that the inquest be reopened.

Haffejee died on August 3 1977 at the Brighton Police Station in Durban‚ a day after being arrested by security police under the Terrorism Act. The police claimed that he hanged himself with his trousers. Despite multiple injuries covering Haffejee’s back‚ knees‚ arms and head‚ apartheid magistrate‚ Trevor Blunden – who presided over the inquest in 1978 – ruled that Haffejee had committed suicide.

In a letter to the Natal Witness in 1978‚ Haffejee’s mother‚ Fatima Haffejee‚ wrote: “I think the time has arrived for us‚ the blacks‚ to pray that God will open a door to protect our destiny from the cruel injustice of the South African Security Police. I hope our prayers are answered before it’s too late for us all. As a grieving mother I cannot forget this terrible ordeal. My heart will always cry for my son.”

Both of Haffejee’s parents have subsequently died‚ leaving his siblings‚ Sara and Ishmael‚ to carry the family’s hope for justice.

“The re-opening of the Timol Inquest last year has given all the families of apartheid-era victims a glimmer of hope that we too would get answers on how their loved ones were murdered by the Security Police. We are very grateful to Timol’s nephew‚ Imtiaz Cajee‚ for the support he has given us‚” Sara said.

After many years of campaigning by the Timol family‚ the inquest into the death of anti-apartheid Ahmed Timol‚ who died in detention in 1971‚ was reopened last year‚ and the inquest finding altered from one of suicide to murder at the hands of police.

“Hoosen was the 45th political detainee to die in detention‚ and many more were to follow. While we are very pleased to hear that the National Prosecutions Authority is to reopen the inquest into our brother’s death‚ the families of others‚ such as Nokuthula Simelane and Nicodemus Kgoathe‚ continue to live with their pain‚” Sara said. 

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