Slice of life: ‘Those people, they have killed Neil’

I knew him from the union. He wasn’t paid to work there. We were organising some factories.

What I always remember was that he used to come to the township to take some of the workers there. During the state of emergency, we were stopped by police at night. They searched us. They asked him: “What is going on?” He was transporting us from the union meeting to our places. They said: “What is going on? Wat gaan aan?” He said: “I am a doctor. I am working at Tembisa Hospital and these are my patients. During this state of emergency, the transport isn’t working very well.” And then that is how the police left us. That was during the state of emergency.

At night he was working in the hospital and then during the day he would come to the factories. And the workers were all so proud of him, saying: “I was at the hospital. I met Neil.”

Most of the workers said his face, it looked like Jesus … Then after his death, the workers would say: “Those people, they have killed Neil. They killed that man because he was helping us.” We felt like we would never get another person like that.

I was part of the committee that organised his funeral. It was the biggest funeral that I have ever attended. There were black and white people there. Some people were saying: “They have killed a white man.” But I said to them: “He was not just a white man. He was a human being. Black, white. He was a human being.”

There was a lot that I was going to learn from Neil. But unfortunately it was just a short space of time that I worked with him … I think there was a lot I was going to learn from him. — Israel Mogoatlhe, an African Food and Canning Workers’ Union comrade of Neil Aggett, who, on February 5 1982, was found hanged in his cell at what was then John Vorster Square as told to Sarah Smit.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.
Advertising

ConCourt settles the law on the public protector and interim...

The Constitutional Court said it welcomed robust debate but criticised the populist rhetoric in the battle between Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Minister Pravin Gordhan

Small towns not ready for level 3

Officials in Beaufort West, which is on a route that links the Cape with the rest of the country, are worried relaxed lockdown regulations mean residents are now at risk of contracting Covid-19
Advertising

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday