Barbara Hogan still haunted by document that led to arrest of Neil Aggett
A list of her close acquaintances meant for the ANC in exile ended up in the hands of the security branch of the apartheid police
Struggle stalwart and ANC member Barbara Hogan said on Wednesday the she is still haunted by a list of her “close comrades” she compiled that resulted in the arrest and subsequent death of Neil Aggett.
Aggett, a trade unionist who was championing black workers’ rights, was arrested after his name was found on the list, which ended up in the hands of security branch police. Aggett was interrogated and allegedly tortured during his 70-day incarceration. He was found hanging in his police cell at the then John Vorster Square police station in Johannesburg.
The security branch said he had committed suicide, a claim his family and comrades strongly denies.
Taking the stand at the high court in Johannesburg, Hogan explained how Aggett, who was not a member of the ANC, ended up on the list. Hogan believed the security branch had intercepted a mailbox she had opened at Illovo, Johannesburg, to communicate with the ANC in Botswana. The mail was usually transported by a courier who had a duplicate key for the mailbox.
Heeding her fears, she sought the assistance of Robert Adam, a contact in the ANC’s armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe, to get help leaving the country. Adam had told her that his superiors were concerned about the leaked communication network between Hogan and the Botswana network and wanted her to write a report on what she knew.
She wrote the report, detailing her concerns but did not put any names in it.
The ANC, she was told, had shared concerns about the safety of the people that Hogan had interacted with as she had raised concerns of being followed by at least six security branch police vehicles everywhere she went for days on end.
Adam forwarded a request by the ANC for her to write another report detailing the names of all the people she had interacted with, so that they could be protected. “I asked if that report would be encoded. He said no, the report would be out of the country within hours. They needed the report urgently because they were concerned about certain people,” said Hogan.
Hogan said she wrote the report, naming all the people the security branch police may know of. Not all of them were ANC members. “It’s still something I wish I had never written because of the consequences it had,” said Hogan.
This list, which Hogan believed was heading to ANC operatives in Mozambique, somehow reached the security branch, where officers arrested several people on the list, including Aggett.
Hogan said she could not recall how she met Aggett but she was friends with his girlfriend, Dr Elizabeth Floyd.
“I must have met him in the course of my friendship with Gavin Anderson. Gavin knew Neil,” said Hogan. Anderson was also an anti-apartheid activist involved with the unions, while Aggett and Floyd were doctors involved in the Industrial Aid Society.
Hogan told the court that in her interactions with Aggett they had held tactical and strategic discussions particularly about union federation Fosatu, which she said was, at that time, taking an anti-ANC stance. “I never disclosed to Aggett that I was a member of the ANC,” said Hogan, because Aggett had shown resistance to joining any political party.