Work­ing un­der­ground


The Citizen (KZN) - - News - Ber­nade e Wicks bernadet­[email protected]­i­

She came into con­tact with Neil Aggett in her work in SA on be­half of the ANC.

Some time be­tween the late 1970s and the early 1980s, a young Bar­bara Ho­gan walked into a lo­cal post of­fice and rented out a PO box. Se­cured un­der a pseu­do­nym and nes­tled be­tween hun­dreds – if not thou­sands – like it, the in­nocu­ous mail­box would have drawn lit­tle at­ten­tion.

No one would have sus­pected that there in the heart of the il­lus­tri­ous, then ex­clu­sively white, sub­urb of Illovo was a drop-off point for covert cor­re­spon­dence with the banned ANC.

“I used my dead let­ter box to send coded re­ports,” Ho­gan said in an af­fi­davit handed up in the

High Court in Jo­han­nes­burg yes­ter­day, when the strug­gle icon took the stand in the re­opened in­quest into union­ist and doc­tor Neil Aggett’s 1982 death in apartheid po­lice cus­tody.

“A courier would pick up the cor­re­spon­dence from the box us­ing a du­pli­cate key and take them by hand to Botswana. The let­ters would only be fetched dur­ing a spec­i­fied time pe­riod and date,” she added.

Ho­gan’s ev­i­dence – both on the stand and in her af­fi­davit – laid bare the in­ner work­ings of the ANC’s un­der­ground dur­ing the party’s years in ex­ile as well as her own role in the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Ho­gan was re­cruited as an ANC mem­ber in 1977 in the wake of the Soweto up­ris­ing and fol­low­ing the ban­ning of the Black Con­scious­ness Move­ment, de­scribed by her as “the pre-emi­nent black po­lit­i­cal move­ment of that era”.

She told the court yes­ter­day of the dif­fer­ent net­works that fell un­der the ANC.

Ho­gan had specif­i­cally re­quested not to join the Umkhonto we Sizwe network. “Be­cause I had no ex­pe­ri­ence in un­der­ground mil­i­tary work and I felt my skills and abil­i­ties were more fo­cused on po­lit­i­cal mo­bil­i­sa­tion,” she ex­plained.

As a re­sult, she was in­stead man­dated to work within the white left to pro­mote the strate­gies and prin­ci­ples of the ANC. “Es­pe­cially those per­tain­ing to the prin­ci­ple of non­ra­cial­ism,” she said. “Among the white left at the time, there was a cer­tain ap­pre­hen­sion about the ANC be­cause there was a lot of false pro­pa­ganda go­ing on.”

Ho­gan was tasked with per­suad­ing the white left that the prin­ci­ples and val­ues of the ANC, as laid out in the Free­dom Char­ter, were “the blue­print for tak­ing the coun­try for­ward”.

“That af­fil­i­at­ing them­selves to the val­ues and prin­ci­ples of the ANC was the log­i­cal step that we needed to take to go for­ward,” she said. “And that the ANC needed that sup­port.”

Ho­gan said some ANC re­cruits were said to be “work­ing un­der dis­ci­pline”. “I was one of those. I was not re­ceiv­ing in­struc­tions from the ANC but I worked within the broad man­dates of the or­gan­i­sa­tion. I would pro­vide feed­back on the work I was do­ing and at­tend de­brief­ings.

“The bulk of my po­lit­i­cal work was done with ac­tivists within the coun­try, not as a con­se­quence of ANC in­struc­tions.”

Ho­gan yes­ter­day also spoke of a strict code of si­lence amongst ANC un­der­ground mem­bers.

She even re­called how one Umkhonto we Sizwe op­er­a­tive – Rob Adam – had tried to re­cruit her with­out re­al­is­ing she was al­ready a party mem­ber.

“I had de­clined his of­fer with­out let­ting him know I was al­ready a mem­ber of the ANC,” she said. –

Among the white left there was ap­pre­hen­sion

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