Date & Time: 29 October 2013, 7-9 PM
Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre at SOAS
Speaker: Dr Beverley Naidoo, author of Death of an Idealist: in Search of Neil Aggett. Respondents: Dr Jonny Steinberg, lecturer in African Studies, Oxford University; Siphamandla Goge, journalist & broadcaster, SABC Radio News & Ukhozi Current Affairs. Chair: Shula Marks, Professor Emeritus, SOAS.
The death of Neil Aggett, a doctor and trade unionist arrested in 1981 by the apartheid security police shocked the world. Thirty years later, the Marikana massacre brought police brutality in South Africa back onto the international stage.
Nearly 20 years after the fall of apartheid, state violence and police brutality remain a feature of South African society. What has been the effect of impunity for former perpetrators on today’s police culture?
In Death of an Idealist, Beverley Naidoo investigates the story of Neil Aggett and his generation of activists. Aggett allegedly committed suicide while in police custody and despite evidence of torture, an inquest found ‘no one to blame’. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission later overturned this decision, naming main interrogator Stephen Whitehead primarily responsible for inducing his death, but Whitehead has remained a free man. Since the publication of the book there have been calls for his prosecution.
Naidoo’s examination of Aggett’s life and work reminds us of the legacy of social justice activists inside South Africa, raising questions of what needs to be done today.
Copies of the book will be available from Merlin Press.