The finding at the reopened inquest into the death of dentist Hoosen Haffejee is another step forward for families waiting for the truth about the death of their loved ones in apartheid prisons.
Every day for the past 46 years, Sarah Lall has remembered the departed in her prayers. There’s always a special devotion for her younger brother, Hoosen Haffejee. On Wednesday, 13 September, she finally got to add a prayer of thanks.
It was gratitude for the end of proceedings at the reopened inquest into Haffejee’s death in detention in 1977 and also gratitude for a finding in the Pietermaritzburg High Court that’s given her clarity about the circumstances of her brother’s death.
Lall (78) and her surviving brother, Ismail Haffejee (80), have continued the family’s fight for justice for Hoosen Haffejee. He was found dead on 3 August 1977, hanging from the bars of a jail cell at Durban’s Brighton Beach police station with a pair of trousers around his neck, knotted with a handkerchief.
An inquest in 1978 ruled his death a suicide. The family never believed the 26-year-old dentist, “the baby of the family” as Lall called him, took his life.
It would take more than four decades and threats of legal action against the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to force a democratic-era government to proceed with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC’s) recommendation for the inquests of cases…