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Re-opened inquest into the death of Dr Hoosen Mia Haffejee (01/2021) [2023] ZAKZPHC 93


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Re-opened inquest into the death of Dr Hoosen Mia Haffejee (01/2021) [2023] ZAKZPHC 93

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15th September 2023


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Click here to read the full judgment on Saflii

The late Dr Hoosen Mia Haffejee (“Hoosen”), who was 26 years old, died at the hands of the then South African Police Security Branch, in the police cells, at Brighton Beach Police Station, Durban, on 3 August 1977 allegedly from suicide by hanging. The pain of his sudden death reverberated within the hearts, mind and soul of his loving family in Pietermaritzburg. The ever-lingering melancholy felt by his mother, Mrs Fatima Haffejee (“Fatima”), is captured in a Witness newspaper article of 17 July 1978, as follows:


‘On Monday morning, August 1, 1977, my son wished me goodbye, saying that he would see me on Friday, as he usually came home every Friday since his return from India 22 months ago. My son was a very home – loving person, so he spent three days a week at home and would leave early on a Monday morning for work in Durban. So as usual he left home on Monday, August 1. God knows what happened to him. In August 3, 1977, we heard that shocking news – he had died in police detention. I could not believe that as my child was no criminal or terrorist. He was a noble young man and a dedicated doctor, but the police found him a dangerous terrorist. What damage had he done or whom had he killed in order to warrant such suspicion? As a sensitive mother who shared a close relationship with her son, I knew that my son was not involved in any political activity, but rather was a carefree person. The police say that he was a brave man, yes, he was brave because he was honest – they also said that he was desperate, yes because he was in the lion’s den with no way to escape and no chance of informing his family of his detention. After his “death”, they said they found him hanging in his cell, but I will never, never believe that my son took his own life. The security police then went to search his flat for about two hours and what did they find? Just two ordinarily letters from his friends in India: These were obviously a poor attempt to gather tatty bits of evidence as a means to disguise the main issue, i.e. how and who inflicted these injuries on my son’s body? Although a magistrate’s findings are based on the evidence put before him, isn’t it strange to find a recurring similarity in the injuries and bruises found on the bodies of dead detainees and no evidence led about the obvious injuries? Are we doing enough to see justice being done? The Prime Minister was quoted in the Natal Mercury, May 25, 1978, confidently stating that “God will open doors to us so that we can fulfil our destiny”. I think the time is right for us, the Blacks, to pray that God will open a door to protect our destiny from the cruel injustice of the South Africa Security Police. I hope our prayers are answered before it is too late for us all. As a grieving mother I cannot forget this terrible ordeal; my heart will always cry for my son.’

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