April 22, 1996 Sapa


African National Congress Senator Christmas Tinto on Monday told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission how he had witnessed police beating Umkhonto we Sizwe leader Looksmart Ngudle shortly before his death in detention in 1963.

Ngudle, one of the first ANC activists to die in detention, was responsible for recruiting MK members for miliary training outside South Africa, and had direct links with the ANC high command in Johannesburg.

He allegedly hanged himself in his cell after he was arrested and detained under the 90-day Detention Law in August 1963.

Evidence of police ill-treatment of detainess was ruled inadmissable at an subsequent inquest for Ngudle.

On Monday, Ngudle's widow Beauty told the commission she did not believe her husband had committed suicide. She said was was tortured to death.

She wept when she asked the commission to help find Ngudle's bones so that he could be given a proper burial.

"We never got a chance to bury him. I just want Looksmart's bones," she said.

Tinto said he last saw Ngudle alive when the MK leader was arrested and detained at Caledon Square police station in Cape Town in June 1963.

"I was at Caledon Square and I heard a loud sound. Policemen were celebrating. They were saying 'We have got Looksmart'."

Tinto was in his cell when he saw Ngudle being dragged up a flight of steps by two policemen.

"They were beating him as he went up the stairs. I noticed that his beard had been pulled out on one side of his face. He was bleeding heavily from his mouth."

The policemen, whom he identified as Sgt Spyker van Wyk and a Sgt Greef, came to his cell and threw Ngudle inside where they continued beating him. "He was trying to say something and the boers were asking me what he ws saying. I said I did not know."

Ngudle was then taken to an adjoining cell. Two days later Tinto saw him being escorted by van Wyk, Greef and three other policemen from his cell, with his hands handcuffed behind his back.

"That was the last time we saw Looksmart," he said.

Ngudle's son Siyanda testified that Senate president and former Rivonia treason trialist Govan Mbeki had later seen Ngudle at Pretoria Central Prison.

His father had secretly passed a note to Mbeki in the prison's exercise yard which told of his torture at the hands of police. The following day his body was found hanging from the cord of his pajama pants.

A district surgeon who conducted a post mortem said he found no evidence of ill-treatment or injuries.

"We will pursue every piece of evidence to get to the truth of this story," commissioner Mary Burton told Ngudle and her son afterwards.

South African Press Association, 1996
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