The reopened inquest hearing into former anti-apartheid activist, Ernest Moabi Dipale’s death has been finalised in the High Court of South Africa Gauteng Local Division, Johannesburg with Judge Motsamai Makume finding that Dipale’s death was brought about by the actions of the members of the security branch police stationed at John Voster Square.

Dipale was found hanging in detention at John Voster Square on 08 August 1982, six-months after Dr. Neil Agett’s death, under similar circumstances. His death was declared as a suicide by the inquest hearing concluded on 01 June 1983. The inquest found that no one could be held liable for Dipale’s death. He was apprehended by security branch officers, together with a colleague, Aaron Oupa Koapeng at their place of work in Meadowlands on 05 August 1982. This was allegedly a day after, Joseph Mamasela and some of his colleagues attempted to kill them by firing shots at them in Mofolo Soweto, but they managed to escape and reported the incident at Meadowlands police station.

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola instructed that the Dipale inquest be heard jointly with the Aggett inquest as they both died at John Voster Square, under similar circumstances, arrested under the same Terrorism Act/ Internal Security Act and were allegedly interrogated by the same former security branch officers. The court had to reconsider the entire evidence considered by the 1983 inquest court. Amongst challenges that the court was faced with, was that only three people, the pathologist, the investigating officer and police officer that was guarding the cells on the day, were said to have testified in the 1983 inquest. No record of such testimonies could be found. The court was not able to know what they said in their testimonies.

Judge Makume remarked that, as a result of his height, Dipale would have needed a chair to hang himself as the toilet seat inside the cell where he was found hanging was far from the window and grill he was hanging from. In dismissing the allegation that Dipale hanged himself, Judge added that detention cells were patrolled on half hour basis and that Dipale would have been found in the act. He reflected on evidence by Gary Paul Hunter, CEO at Aranda textile (Pty)Ltd that the blankets used by detainees were of strong quality and could not be torn by bare hands, leaving no reasonable explanation about how Dipale could have used the blanket to hang himself and why would he have taken his clothes off, as Dipale was found hanging in his underwear.

Judge Makume quoted from the comments of Advocate George Bizo’s book titled “No one to blame” when he (Adv Bizos) referred to the conduct of Magistrates in Apartheid era who had no real desire to reach the truth but saw it as their duty to protect organs of the state such as the police. The Judge remarked that Mamasela and Deetlefts’ movements from 05 August to 08 August 1982 should be followed up as he has suspicion that they were involved in Dipale’s death. The court found that the security branch police are responsible for the death of Moabi Oupa Dipale.

The NPA continues in its efforts to deal with cases stemming from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The NPA will move with speed to study the judgement and act on the Judge’s recommendations.  The NPA also commends Adv. Mothibe and Mlotshwa for the outstanding work done in the inquest.

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