Cape Town – Former security branch police officer Nick Deetlefs admitted that he had lied under oath in the cases of political detainees he had interrogated in a bid to cover up for police officers, including his role in torturing them.
Deetlefs was on Wednesday concluding his testimony at the reopened inquest into the death of anti-apartheid activist Dr Neil Aggett who was found hanged in his cell in 1982 while detained at the Johannesburg Central Police Station, then John Vorster Square.
Deetlefs, who was among the interrogators accused of torturing political activists, has admitted that he had lied in the previous Aggett inquest, including by concealing his claim that Aggett had said that he did not want to live anymore.
On Wednesday, he said he had also lied during the trial of the assault case opened by ANC stalwart Barbara Hogan relating to her assault by interrogators, including himself.
This comes as Deetlefs’s evidence over his three days at the stand has been dismissed as dishonest, contradictory and false by legal representatives for Aggett’s family and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
The NPA’s Jabulani Mlotshwa quizzed Deetlefs on why he should be considered a credible witness in the on-going inquest as he had repeatedly lied under oath to protect himself and his colleagues before.
“What guarantee do we have today that you are telling the truth?” asked Mlotshwa.
Deetlefs accused his seniors with the security branch of having instructed him to lie about their operations, adding that he had decided that he would tell the truth after legal advice.
“There is no one that is intimidating me now or telling me what to say. My legal representatives told me and warned me that I should tell the truth. So far I have not lied,” Deetlefs insisted.
Deetlefs had initially told the court that torture of political detainees was routine practice at the notorious 10th floor of John Vorster, but said he did not know who was responsible for the torture after being asked to name the security officers who assaulted detainees.
He also insisted initially that he was never a violent person, but later admitted that he had slapped Hogan, forced her to sit under the table during interrogation and threatened her with electric shocks.
Aggett family’s representative indicated their intention to pursue criminal prosecution against Deetlefs as they accused him of covering up the torture and murder of Aggett.
Mlotshwa pointed out that there were too many coincidences in the police version of Aggett’s alleged suicide for it to be probable.
He also pointed out to the court that the security police cover up had led to 89 political detainees dying in custody without a single officer responsible for their interrogation held responsible for their death.
Deetlefs is still on the stand.