The policeman who discovered Imam Haron dead in his cell 53 years ago acknowledged that he would likely be held accountable for the anti-apartheid cleric’s passing but fiercely denied any involvement.
As his cross-examination in the revived inquest into the imam’s death in jail in 1969 came to an end, retired police captain Johannes Burger declared, “I am the only one left alive, and it will all be dumped on to me.”
Burger stated that he agreed that the wounds on Haron’s body could only have been caused by an assault while he was being held, and he added that it was reasonable to believe that Haron’s death was suspicious. But he continued to argue that he was unrelated to it.
Howard Varney, an attorney, concluded his testimony by saying that if Haron’s death was caused by negligence, the inquest might find that culpable murder was the cause of death.
If the judge decided that Haron’s injuries prevented him from receiving medical care on purpose, it would constitute murder.
“The gentleman is correct in his assertion. However, I had nothing to do with him “McDonald claimed.
Burger said that his only involvement with Haron would have been to open and close the compartment at the Maitland police station when Haron performed his exercise. Burger was one of two constables who had keys to Haron’s cell.
He claimed to have seen the imam appear exhausted and unable to move on the final day of Haron’s life, but he was unaware that Haron’s body was covered in bruises and other wounds that were discovered after his death.
Burger stated in court, “I never saw him naked.”
inquest by the Western Cape High Court Burger was informed by Judge Daniel Thulare that despite knowing Haron wasn’t himself, he did nothing to assist him.
Burger stated that Haron appeared healthy during the 1970 inquest, which was obviously false, he noted.
You didn’t see anything? Thulare questioned sternly.
Burger retorted, saying, “Why must I lie now? I don’t know the entire degree of Haron’s injuries, and Haron didn’t want the services of the doctor I provided.”
Burger once more had no information when pressed for details about how the Security Branch handled political prisoners.
“The less you know about other people’s shortcomings, my Lord, the better it is for your heart. I say this with respect. Regarding that, I have no knowledge.”
The original conclusion that Haron’s bruises were probably caused by falling down the steps of Cape Town Central police station was rejected by the Haron family, and the inquest was sought to establish that Haron had been tortured instead.
They also want those responsible for Haron’s death and the alleged cover-up to have their credentials and honours revoked and to have been found guilty of premeditated torture that resulted in murder.
The investigation goes on.