How I came to write the 'Close Comrades' report - Barbara Hogan

ANC operative explains in affidavit why she produced document which named Neil Aggett


In the matter of:

Case number: 2019/445 Original case no: 1982/130



I, the undersigned,


do hereby state under oath and say that:

1 I am a semi-retired adult female residing in Cape Town.

2 The facts contained herein are within my own personal knowledge, save where the context indicates otherwise, and to the best cf my belief are both true and correct.


3 Dr Neil Aggett (Neil), Dr Elizabeth Floyd (Liz) and many others were arrested and detained as a result of the Glose Comrades list (Glose Comrades) and a document titled "Problems Arising in Interna! Political Work" which I had drafted, and which were intercepted by the Security Branch (SB) in the latter part of 1981. I will explain in more detail about these documents below. Close Gomrades is included in the 1982 lnquest court record as exhibit B3.5.21. Although I do not have a copy of the document titled "Problems Arising in Internal Political Work", I attach as Annexure "BH1" a portion of the transcript from State v Barbara Hogan, Gase no 163/82, where the contents of the report were read out.

4 I was arrested and detained as a result of the intercepted Glose Gomrades list.

1 was unable to testify at the first inquest because I was imprisoned at the time, awaiting trial at court, having been accused of high treason. I was 30 years old at the time. Later that year I was convicted of treason and spent almost ten years in prison in Pretoria, a year or two of which was spent in solitary confinement. In 1990, I was released a week after the unbanning of the ANG.

5 In 1982 the Aggett family's legal team consulted with me in the women's awaiting trial section of the Old Fort prison in Johannesburg for purposes of the first inquest. They took a statement from me and I signed an affidavit on 22 February 1982. A copy of my signed affidavit is included in the court record as exhibit B4.2.1. The record also includes a previous version of my affidavit, which was unsigned, marked as exhibit B3.1.3.

6 The purpose of this affidavit is to provide the court with additional information as well as to expand on some of the themes covered in the 1982 affidavits.


7 I was born on 28 February 1952 and grew up in Benoni, Gauteng. In 1970 I enrolled at University of Witwatersrand where I obtained a BA Honours in Development Studies. At the time of my arrest in 1981 I was registered for an MA Degree focusing on unemployment in South Africa.

8 In my early years at Wits University I became active in protest movements against the government and was arrested in my first year. During 1973 / 1974 I helped to set up the offices of a black workers advice office in Johannesburg called the lndustrial Aid Society. Later, several new independent black trade unions emerged from this organisation. They formed the core of what was later to be FOSATU / COSATU.

9 During the June uprisings in Soweto 1976, I and a few others helped to draft pamphlets for the Soweto Students' Representative Council (SSRC). Thereafter I became increasingly engaged in rural development work and organising community support for black trade union struggles, such as consumer boycotts.

10 In 1977, Steven Biko died in detention and the apartheid government banned the entire black consciousness movement (BCM). The BCM was the pre­ eminent black political movement of that era.

11 In December 1977 I was recruited into the African National Congress (ANC) under the Swaziland network and later transferred to the Botswana division under Marius Schoon (Marius) and Jeanette Curtis (Jeanette), who I had known in South Africa. At the time of my recruitment, I had specified that I wanted to join the political underground of the ANC and that I did not want to do military work. This agreement was honoured.

12 I was given a broad mandate to werk within the white left to promote the strategies and political principles of ANC, especially those pertaining to the principle of non-racialism. I was also able to continue my work on unemployment and to regularly report back to the ANC on current political developments within mass struggle, including the black trade union movement.

13 lt was important for me that the ANC understood what was happening in South Africa because from June 1976 an influx of people joined the movement in different capacities in exile and we had to make sure that people were aligned both internally and externally and avoid a multitude of inconsistent strategies.

14 Some who were recruited into the ANC were said to be working under discipline. I was one of those. I was not receiving instructions from the ANC, but I worked within the broad mandates of the organisation. I would provide feedback on the work I was doing and attend debriefings. The bulk of my political work was done with activists within the country, not as a consequence of instructions from ANC.

15 I used my dead letter box to send coded reports to Jeanette and Marius every 2 weeks. My dead letter box was a post office box that I had rented under a false name. A courier would pick up the correspondence from the box using a duplicate key and take them by hand to Botswana. The letters would only be fetched during a specified time period and date.


16 Sometime during the first half of 1982, Jeanette and Marius informed me that they wanted to meet Neil. I relayed this request to Gavin Andersson, without mentioning that I was a member of the ANC and he seemed reluctant to organise this meeting.

17 Subsequently, I had a conversation with Neil about meeting Jeanette and Marius. Neil responded by saying that while he was totally sympathetic to the ANC, there was no way he would become a member because it would be detrimental to the Food and Canning Workers Union (the Union). Neil understood that the ANC was a banned organisation at the time and what the implications would be for the Union should he be exposed as an ANC member.


18 During June 1981, I was telephoned by someone who asked to meet me at Jeanette's parent's home in Norwood. Upon my arrival a courier who had been sent by ANC structures in Botswana awaited and told me that the courier who had picked up my last report from my dead letter box was extremely concerned because the envelope had been slit open at the top and just placed back. I was advised to leave the country, legally, as soon as possible. The ANC was of the view that the Security Branch (SB) did not yet know who I was, so I did not need to illegally cross the border.

19 However, as I left the meeting in Norwood, I immediately noticed that I was under surveillance, followed by at least 6 cars which indicated to me that the police were on to me. I returned to my flat and started making preparations to leave. I wrote a letter to my flatmate saying that I would be away for a while and on putting it into an envelope I noticed that it too immediately slit open at the top. I examined the pack of unused envelopes which I had bought, and which I also used to correspond with Jenny and Marius and discovered that they all slit open at the top when opened. lt appeared that I had simply bought a pack of poor-quality envelopes.

20 I surmised that my correspondence had not been intercepted and read by a third party such as the SB, as the ANC feared, but rather that the envelope that I had used was poorly made. Although I feit sure that my communications had not been intercepted, from the moment I had left the meeting in Norwood I was under such intense surveillance that the prospects for leaving the country legally were very dim. lndeed, the police were now following me all the time. lt later transpired that the Security Police were following me because they had seen Rob Adam (Rob), an Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) operative, at my flat visiting my flatmate and they had been keeping him under surveillance.


21 I approached Alan Fine for advice on the issue because he was also in contact with the same network. I utilised his communication network to send a message to Botswana about what had transpired and asked for instructions on how to proceed because I was concerned about the possibility of endangering others, simply by being in contact with them.

22 Ordinarily with communications of this nature with the network, one could expect a response within 2 weeks, but this time none was forthcoming. I therefore made the decision to leave the country covertly because I considered myself a danger to others.

23 The only way I could think of leaving covertly was to approach Rob who had tried to recruit me into MK about 6 months previously. I had declined his offer, without letting him know that I was already a member of the ANC

24 I approached Rob and disclosed my current situation and my need to leave the country. He agreed to assist with making the arrangements for my departure by speaking to his handlers. Through Rob they advised that I was temporarily safe but that I should move to a safe house, which they would set up. They also requested that I draw up a report about my ANC-related activities and the concerns I had about the security of the ANC Botswana link.

I pause to say that this concern was not mine alone and many others felt the same too. I accordingly drew up such a report, calling it "Problems Arising in Internal Political Work." I did not mention any names of any people in the report and I gave it to Rob. My understanding was that the report was going to the Mozambican ANC structures who were apparently conducting a security analysis of the Botswana operation.

25 Rob came back later and said that his handlers were concerned about the security of the people I was working with politically and they needed the names to do an urgent security assessment of each person. I asked Rob whether the names should be written in code and he replied in the negative, saying the document would be across the border in hours. lt was as a result of my approaching Rob to assist me with leaving the country, together with this instruction, that I became ensnared in a MK network that had been infiltrated, which resulted in me providing the two documents which ended up in the hands of the SB.

26 I already had concerns about endangering the people around me and was agreeable to providing a list as I saw it as way of getting them some measure of protection from ANC structures.

27 I categorised the people I worked with as follows:

27.1 'Close Comrades' were those doing work in the underground and above ground, whether under discipline or not. All the people mentioned in this category were arrested by the SB. Gavin Anderson was released after two weeks interrogation and left the country immediately, Auret van Heerden was severely tortured but not charged, and Cedric De Beer was one of the last to be released. He too was not charged.

27.2 I mentioned Fink Haysom because I was beginning to work with him more and anticipated that this would continue in future. As I feared that he might be at risk I included him. I made it clear that he did not know I was under discipline.

27.3 I mentioned Alan Fine because he was the only one I knew tobe working directly with the ANC on a regular basis. He was later separately charged and acquitted.

27.4 I included a category of advisory and/or reference people and specified that I worked with them above ground. Neil and Liz were mentioned in this category. I also mentioned that none of these people knew I was under discipline and that I had no knowledge whether they had any political affiliations outside of the country or not. Some of the people on this part of the list were arrested by the SB.

27.5 1 also included a category of people who regarded me as an advisor and whom I worked with closely. As is apparent I mentioned even those I seldom worked with because of my concern of endangering them. Some of these people were also arrested.

28 Rob advised me to continue with my routine and not arouse suspicion by disappearing because then the SB would come after me. I thereafter went to East London to meet with Tozamile Gweta and Sisa Njikelana regarding setting up a movement for the unemployed. Prior to departure, I received a communication from Botswana that I was to mobilise the white left to provide safe houses for MK operatives. This was in fact the only instruction I received from the ANC structures for MK work and I was angered by it because I had already made it known that I did not wish to work in any underground MK structures as this would immediately jeopardise my political work.

29 Within a day or two of my return from East London I was arrested on 22 September 1981 by Major Arthur Cronwright (Cronwright) at my flat. During my arrest Cronwright told me that they already knew about close comrades. Rob was arrested on the same day.


30 I later discovered that the Close Comrades list and the document labelled "Problems Arising in Interna! Political Work" went straight to the Security Branch, and not to the ANC. lt turned out that Rob's handler was a double agent, pretending to be a MK operative but really working for the Security Branch. I do not know what his name was. Rob himself realised this during his detention at JVS where he saw his handler filling his vehicle with petrol at JVS and realised he was working for the SB.

31 I also got wind of the interception when during my detention Cronwright bragged to me about how my conversations with Robin the Yeoville Park were monitored with listening devices placed under the park bench. During my interrogation, both documents were shown to me and referred to on numerous occasions.

32 Major Cronwright, who oversaw the investigations, jubilantly believed that they had uncovered an entire ANC underground network and he often said to me, "we are going to bring you all to court like in the Treason Trial - it will be truck after truck coming in".

33 He had an abiding hatred for the White Left, claiming that his back had been broken when he was thrown down the stairs cf the Student Union at Wits University when he tried to arrest someone. He, and his fellow Security Policemen, saw themselves as waging a war against "terrorists" and "communists". Seme cf these Security Policemen had done extensive time on the Angolan Border and were proud cf their brutality. Warrant-Officer Prince used to brag about his time there and to me he came across as unhinged.


34 Cronwright was foolish in disclosing to me from the onset how much he knew.

My concern then, was how to protect the people who had been arrested.

35 In the car on the way to JVS I heard via the police radio that the SB had in fact gone to Alan Fine's flat and he was not there. I realised then, that he was the person I needed to protect most because I knew cf his direct links to the ANC. Also, Alan and I had an agreement that if we got arrested, I would say I was ANC and he would say he was with the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) because SACTU was not banned. We saw this as a way cf protecting the union because Alan was employed by the Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union.

36 I had to play for time to give Alan and others time to escape. I strung the SB out, gave them false leads, acted stupid, cried a lot and gave them false information about people they could arrest but who I knew were living overseas. Finally, after several days, I pretended to break down, and this led to great celebrations amongst my interrogators because they believed they had "broken" me. They brought me KFC and ice-cream as a reward.

37 During those first several days of interrogation, I was not returned to my cell and my meals were given to me in the interrogation office on the 10th floor. A stretcher with pillows and blankets were set up for me to sleep on. lt was clear to me that that I was not allowed to sleep in my cell because I think they considered me a suicide risk. The SB probably reasoned that because I was distraught at selling out my comrades so there was a heightened risk of suicide and they were intent on using my information to crack down on the ANC.

38 Once the SB inevitably discovered that I had lied about giving away comrades, I was met with furious aggression and later assaulted and forcibly kept awake. My chief interrogators were Prince, Deetlefs and Struwig. The nature and extent of my torture under detention is adequately covered in the exhibits above and I will not repeat them here, save to highlight that the warst assaults occurred on 22 October 1981, and in the week leading up to 5 November 1981. I attempted suicide on 26 October 1981. On 27 October 1981 I was taken to Vereeniging police station where the interrogation and assaults continued until 5 November 1981. I was aggressively, and at times violently, interrogated almest every day for a full six-week period.

39 1 later laid charges of assault against the SB but they were acquitted even though the District Surgeon testified that I had been assaulted. At that trial, Deetlefs falsely entered a human rights document on how to handle detention which he claimed had been in my possession when I was arrested. The date of the document's publication was after my arrest. lt featured later as a contested exhibit in my Treason Trial.

40 I had earlier attempted suicide because I became convinced that they would torture me to death to get information I simply did not have. I constantly pointed out to them that they had a full record of all my activities in my report to the ANC and yet they were always demanding more information from me, which I could not give. I began to suspect that they suspected I was part of a military network, which I was not.

41 I spent six months in solitary confinement. I attempted to keep contact with what was happening to other detainees by looking at the meal book to see whether they were been returned to their cells at night; if not it probably meant that they were being tortured.

42 I was not allowed to have shoelaces or belts in my cell or any other item the SB suspected I could use to harm myself. However, they did overlook my dressing gown cord. The cells were regularly searched by female officers and they had us change cells every now and again.

43 My suicide attempt on 22 October 1981 as well as the events that immediately followed are stated correctly in the exhibits mentioned above and should be read as incorporated herein.


44 I recall that at some point in December 1981, I was taken for interrogation by the SB to East London. Upon my return I was taken to the second-floor cells in JVS to the administration area near the entrance, so that I could be transferred to the Heidelberg police station.

45 While waiting for the paperwork tobe done I saw Neil coming back to the cell section. He gave me a big smile and gave me an Amandla salute. I observed that his shirt was tarn on the underside of the arm. The SB escort, who I think was a black police officer, hurried him off and we had no further communication. This incident was how I came to know Neil was also in detention and was also the last time I saw him alive.


46 During February 1982 while I was at Heidelberg police cells, Deetlefs and another officer I cannot recall, collected me to take me to JVS for a special family visit. On the way there, they were talking about the Food and Canning Workers Union. As we got closer to JVS I saw a Star newspaper poster that read "Detainee's Death " I said to Deetlefs "You bastards, who have you killed? And he tumed around to me and said ''l'm not telling you - it's someone you're very close to." lt was almost like he was enjoying himself. From the previous discussion about the Food and Canning Workers Union I strongly suspected it must be Neil.

47 When I got to JVS I noticed other detainees being driven in as well. I was allowed a visit with my parents and sister and she asked me if I knew Neil had died. The SB officer screamed at my sister and told her she was not allowed to talk about that. On the return drive, Deetlefs confiscated one of the two books I had been allowed to receive from my family. lt was purely vindictive. I was only allowed two books a week from mid-January onwards.


48 During the early 1990s, I was the secretary general of the ANC in Gauteng as well as the liaison officer with the SAPS. On a date I cannot recall Deetlefs telephoned me and said "Oh Barbara, how are you? I said to him "Deetlefs, you've never really been concerned about how I am, so l'm not interested in telling you" and ended the call.


Signed 28 January 2020

Source: . The full PDF with annexure can be read here.