Ela Gandhi supports call for justice against Aggett interrogators



On 30 January, 2013, leading South African social justice activist and grand-daughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Ela Gandhi, led our nation in a fitting tribute to Gandhiji’s tragic assassination in New Delhi, 65 years earlier.

In her inspirational memorial in Durban that day – and covered by print, electronic and social media – she called for us all to embrace the values by which the Mahatma lived and died.

It is therefore fitting that a few days later, in honouring the 31st anniversary of Neil Aggett’s death in South African police detention, she has issued a letter endorsing the Neil Aggett Support Group’s call to SA’s Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Hon Jeff Radebe, MP,  to finally address the prosecution of the police officers involved in that heinous crime.

As an old school friend of Neil’s – and a coordinator of this group – I must place on record how hugely honoured I have felt, personally, to have Dr. Gandhi’s terrific support in this matter, via her strongly worded letter to our wider collective.

Here is the Letter to Minister Radebe sent about 16h00 on Monday, 4 February –
(Right click to open in new window – PDF download)

Here is the SA media statement released about 16h30 on Monday, 4 February –
(Right click to open in new window – PDF download)

MINISTER JEFF RADEBE replies – copy letter dated 09 July 2013 – received by NASG 13 July 2013 –
(Right click to open in new window – PDF download)

Here is a full transcript of Ela Gandhi’s letter:

Durban. South Africa.
03 February 2013.

The Neil Aggett Support Group,

May I lend my support to the work you are doing towards attaining justice in respect of Neil Aggett who was indeed a brave and a committed South African struggle hero.

I fully support your appeal following Judge Chris Nicholson’s speech at the Aggett biography book-launch.  I fully endorse his statement, “We know from Gandhi that silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.”

As a former member of the Detainees Support Committee (DESCOM) in Durban, I fully support the call for an investigation and prosecution of those who were responsible for Neil’s death in detention.   Although the TRC process was meant to heal the wounds of the past and to facilitate a process of reconciliation, it was also aimed to ensure that justice is seen to be done.   These men who acted with impunity and cruelty have to realise and repent for their guilt.  Without such a process we cannot say that justice has been done.  The TRC process was never meant to cover up and leave such inhumane deeds as the one perpetrated on Neil to be left without any due process.  I therefore fully support your appeal to the state for justice especially since they do not consider themselves guilty and have not in any way repented for their nefarious deeds.

These men who have been guilty of gross violations of human rights, need to be prosecuted and there have to be due process of justice.  There also needs to be urgently imposed restrictions on these perpetrators of crime against humanity, not to be able to pursue vocations where the community is dependent on them for security.  This lack of action in fact is jeopardising the safety and security of the country.

There is an urgent need for there to be some form of restorative justice so that the families and friends as well as the community at large feel that justice is seen to be done and that steps have been taken to ensure that such violations will never again occur.  For the confidence of the community to be restored in the justice system it becomes even more imperative that this be done urgently.

Best wishes

Ela  Gandhi


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