List was to ‘protect Neil’
Struggle icon Barbara Hogan, whose now infamous list of “close comrades” piqued the apartheid police’s interest in doctor and unionist Neil Aggett, has expressed her deep regret.
“It’s still something I wish I’d never done,” she told the High Court in Johannesburg yesterday, of compiling the list. “Because of the consequences that it’s had – not just for Neil but for everybody – all the suffering that people went through …”
Her voice trailed off. Hogan cut a slight figure in the witness box, where she was giving evidence in the newly reopened inquest into Aggett’s death in apartheid police custody.
His death was at the time ruled a suicide but his family has always maintained he was murdered.
The notorious security branch had swooped on Aggett and his girlfriend at the time, Elizabeth Floyd, after getting hold of Hogan’s list.
Hogan told the court yesterday, though, that she had in fact written it in a bid to protect him.
Fearing that she had been compromised, Hogan had approached Umkhonto we Sizwe operative Rob Adam and asked him to help smuggle her out of the country. Adam had relayed to her that his superiors were concerned about the security of the people she was working with and needed their names to do an “urgent security assessment of each person”.
“I already had concerns about endangering the people around me and was agreeable to providing a list as I saw it as a way of getting some measure of protection from ANC structures,” she said,
“It was as a result of my approaching Rob to assist me with leaving the country, together with this instruction, that I became ensnared in an MK network that had been infiltrated, which resulted in me providing the two documents which ended up in the hands of the security branch.”
Hogan was arrested shortly before Aggett and held first at John Vorster Square – where Aggett was held – and later at Heidelberg police station. During an interrogation on the former’s infamous 10th floor, she said, she was hit in the face and on the back and threatened with electrocution. She said a police officer fetched a cable and a wet towel, but she was never actually shocked. After several hours, she started bleeding internally and was returned to her cell.
The next day, ahead of a routine appointment with the district surgeon, she was told if she disclosed what had happened that she would be killed. Shortly afterwards she tried to take her own life. “I saw no way of getting out of that situation because I knew many people who had died in detention and I had friends who had been tortured very badly at John Vorster Square. I knew what they were capable and I saw myself being tortured to death.”