Elizabeth Floyd, Neil Aggett’s girlfriend at the time of the struggle activist’s death, has recounted how the apartheid police’s security branch tried to run her off the road in the lead-up to her and Aggett’s arrests.
“I was going home on Commissioner Street and they tried to drive me off the road,” Floyd told the High Court in Johannesburg yesterday, as the reopened inquest into Aggett’s death entered its fourth day.
“What they did was they swerved in front of you to try and cause you to have an accident,” she said.
Aggett and Floyd were arrested on 27 November 1981. He was held first in Pretoria, followed by what was then John Vorster Square and she at the Bronkhorstspruit Police Station.
More than two months later, on 5 February 1982, Aggett became the 51st person to die in detention.
His death was originally ruled a suicide. Those close to the doctor and unionist, however, maintain he was either murdered or tortured so severely that his suicide was “induced”.
Floyd, a doctor herself, yesterday detailed the “intensive security surveillance and harassment” she and Aggett had been subject to.
“Every time [Aggett] left the house, he was followed by five police vehicles. And he picked it up. If you’re followed by one, it’s quite easy to pick up but if you’re followed by five … One will overtake and turn off, it’s quite difficult,” she said.
“Then there was a vehicle parked down the street, observing us at night – not every night but a lot of nights. And if we brought the union vehicle home, the police would often tamper with the tyres. It was designed to create an accident.”
Floyd also recalled how the security police had raided the union offices and one night, she said, they had urinated in the kettle. Neither Floyd, nor Aggett knew why they were being tracked so closely at the time.
They later learnt that their names had been discovered on a list compiled by struggle stalwart Barbara Hogan, under the heading “Close Comrades”.
The last time Floyd saw Aggett was on the morning of their arrests. They were at their Fox Street home and the police were conducting a search.
“You’re supposed to watch the search because they can plant things on you but we were just talking,” Floyd said yesterday, “We knew we had limited time together.”