Let’s not forget those who died in custody

ON the eve of the 35th anniversary of the 1976 uprising (across the country), I read about a movie being made about Imam Haron’s life and death. The same week we also learnt of the death of Rev Bernie Wrankmore, a courageous priest who fasted for 67 days trying to convince the government of John Vorster to open an inquest into the death in detention of Haron.


So many people gave so much for us to live in a democratic South Africa – a sacrifice we should never forget and a right that we should never take for granted.


The Christian Institute, banned in 1977, published South Africa – A Police State? in 1976 – also banned. It contained a list of people who died in detention between 1969 and September 3, 1976, along with the alleged cause of death. (The publication is available at the Parliamentary Library at Parliament.)


Lest we forget, I repeat those names and alleged causes;


ýLocksmart Solwandle Ngudle – death by hanging;


ýBellington Merope – causes undisclosed;


ýJames Tyitja – suicide by hanging;


ýSuliman Saloojee – fell seven floors during interrogation;


ýNegeni Gaga – natural causes;


ýPongolosha Hoye – natural causes;


ýJames Hamakwayo – suicide by hanging;


ýHangula Shonyeka – suicide;


ýLeong Pin – suicide by hanging;


ýAh Yan – suicide by hanging;


ýAlpheus Madiba – suicide by hanging;


ýJB Tubakwe – suicide by hanging;


ýAn undisclosed person died at an unknown time in an unknown place – death disclosed in Parliament on January 28, 1969;



  • Nicodemus Kgoathe – slipped in the shower;

  • Solomon Modipane – natural causes;

  • James Lencoe – suicide by hanging;

  • Caleb Mayekiso – natural causes;

  • Michael Shivute – suicide;

  • Jacob Monakgotla – thrombosis;

  • Imam Abdullah Haron – fell down stairs;

  • Mthayeni Cuthsela – natural causes;

  • Ahmed Timol – suicide by leaping from a 10th floor window;

  • Joseph Mduli;

  • Mapetla Mohapi;

  • Luke Mazwebe.

There were many more people killed after this, including Steve Biko and George Botha.


As we remember them, may we recommit ourselves to the on-going building of a truly non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa. There is still much to be done!


Peter Hendrickse, Welgelegen, Cape Town

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