Abdulhay Jassat

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Biographical information

Synopsis:

Political activist, member of TIC and MK

First name: 
Abdulhay
Last name: 
Jassat
Date of birth: 
12 June 1934

Abdulhay Jassat became involved in politics as a member of the  Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC), which was an affiliate of the Congress Alliance in the 1950s. In 1958 Jassat was arrested with twenty-eight other members of the Congress Alliance for incitement. They enlisted the service of Harold Wolpe and Ismail Mahomed as their legal representatives and were acquitted after a six months’ trial. Jassat was arrested again during the 1960 state of emergency and imprisoned at both Fort Prison in Johannesburg and Pretoria Central Prison for almost six months. In 1961 he joined the ANC’s military wing Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK) and was actively involved in MK activities. He foiled the government’s attempt to forcibly remove the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) president Nana Sita from his home by blowing up the house that was set aside for him in Laudium.

 

Jassat was arrested as a result of this incident and sent to the Marshall Square Prison in Johannesburg, where he met other MK members Reggie Vandeyar, Shirish Nanabhai and Indris Naidoo. A few days later, Jassat was taken along with his fellow MK members to Johannesburg Park Station where they were subjected to all forms of torture. Jassat was taken to a third floor office where he was confronted by Lt van Wyk, Coetzee and four railway policemen. He was questioned about his activities in MK, which he denied. A damped bag was put over his head and tied around his knees and electrodes attached to his toes. He was told that they would start at 20 volts and increase the voltage until he confessed. He stood his ground until they stopped.

After this method failed to produce results, the police moved to the next one. They took him to the window and told him to jump to the ground. When he refused, he was grabbed by the shoulders and his head pushed out of the window. They held him by his ankles and all he could see was the concrete floor. They continued to ask him questions. All of a sudden one of them would let go of one foot and catch it again when the second policeman let go of his other foot. They played like that. They later took him to Johannesburg Prison and charged him with sabotage. After these charges were dropped, he was kept in detention without trial in solitary confinement. While there, Jassat met with two Rivonia trialists, Harold Wolpe and Arthur Goldreich. They together befriended a policeman whom they bribed to let them loose. The policeman, known only as Greef, agreed and opened gates for them.

Jassat then fled the country and went to Tanzania where doctors diagnosed him as suffering from epilepsy. The ANC sent him to Germany, Moscow and Czechoslovakia for medical treatment, where the doctors told him that the torture had damaged his central nervous system.

In 1996 Jassat appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to talk about the ordeal he suffered at the hands of police officers.   

Last updated : 03-Nov-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011

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