How Barbara Hogan tried to keep fellow comrades out of jail

Barbara Hogan said she did all she could to buy time for her comrades after her arrest by security branch officers in 1981.
Barbara Hogan said she did all she could to buy time for her comrades after her arrest by security branch officers in 1981.
Image: Naledi Shange

Former struggle stalwart Barbara Hogan, who was an underground ANC operative when it was banned during apartheid, on Wednesday testified about how she pulled a performance to avoid giving information about her comrades.

Hogan was giving evidence in the high court in Johannesburg at the inquest into Dr Neil Aggett's death. Aggett was found hanging in the police cells of John Vorster Square police station on February 5 1982. Police alleged he committed suicide after a 70-day incarceration. His family believed he was killed. 

Hogan was detained after police intercepted a document containing a list of names of many of her acquaintances, which she had written for the ANC. Dr Neil Aggett, who was not an ANC member, was named on the list and arrested and interrogated.

After her arrest in September 1981, Hogan said she went to great lengths to protect the people close to her.

“I spun stories. I pretended to be stupid. I cried a lot. I was genuinely emotional, but I tried to get as much time before I could make a statement about Allan (Fine),” she told the court.

“For three days or so, I was kept on the 10th floor [of the infamous John Vorster Square police station]. They brought in a camper bed that I slept on. I pretended to break down. At some point I gave them a name and they thought I was on their side. I was terrified because when they found out I had spun them a non-story, I would be in trouble,” she said.

Fine, whom Hogan was holding off on making a statement about, was one of her comrades.

“Allan and I had [previously discussed] what would happen should one of us get arrested. He had said he cannot play heroics. He had been tortured before and would [therefore] disclose that he was working through Botswana. We had agreed that we would stay firm [that] he was working on trade union work. We stuck with the story that he was Sactu (SA Congress of Trade Unions) and I was ANC,” she said.

“I thought I would give him a few days to try to get out of the country, so I would not admit how I knew Allan was under [ANC] discipline.”

Hogan kept her end of the deal.

She later found out that Fine was eventually apprehended by the police, but security branch officers told her they had released him because he was “mal as ‘n haas (crazy as a rabbit)". 

She said one of the reasons for this was because Fine was a vegetarian. 

Reverend Frank Chikane was expected to testify on Thursday. 

Chikane and Aggett were detained about the same time. He apparently saw Aggett in the corridors of the police station in his last few days alive and said Aggett was in a bad state.

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