Mr Aaron Khoza,aged 35,from Kagiso was detained on 9 December 1976 in Krugersdorp in terms of section 6(1) of the Terrorism Act. He was transferred to Pietermarizburg prison on 1 March 1977.Mr Khoza was a member of a church group on the west rand which gave assistance to people and families who suffered death or distress as a result of police action during the 1976 student disturbances.He died in a police cell on the night of 26 March. According to the police he hanged himself.
According to medical evidence at the inquest into his death the cause of death was asphyxia as a result of pressure to the neck consistent with the evidence of hanging supplied by the police.There were no other wounds on the body besides bruising on the neck.Medical evidence conceded the possibility of other causes of asphyxiation,such as strangulation.
Police evidence was that Mr Khoza was found hanged from the bars in the window of the cell with a jacket and two shoe laces. Photographs taken before the body was removed from the cell showed a glass window inside the bars.When the court inspected the cell on 10 May 1977,there was no glass in the window .Major Douglas Ingram said in his evidence that it was a warder's duty to observe prisoners through the peephole of Mr Khoza's door was obscured.However,he did not see the detainee until 6 hours later when he discovered his body.
Mr Harry Pitman,counsel for the Khoza family,submitted that a finding of suicide was not justified because of a conflict of facts. All that was known was that Mr Khoza died of asphyxia.No one knew the circumstances in which he died and there was no evidence of his state of mind or his mental health.'One does not expect a person with a balanced mind to commit suicide,'he said.
The magistrate found that Mr Khoza had committed suicide and that the death was not due to any act or omission by anyone.
Behind Closed Doors. By Shireen Motala .South African Institute Race Relations.1987.