Mr George Botha aged 30,a coloured teacher at the Patterson High School in Port Elizabeth, was detained on December 1976 in terms of section 22 of the General Law Amendment Act No 62 of 1966.He was detained in connection with an investigation into the activities of ANC. He was reported to have died on December. According to general Gert Prinsloo, the commissioner of police, Mr Botha was being taken to security police offices in the Sanlam Building in port Elizabeth. As he left the lift he jumped down the stairwell and fell six floors to his death. The commissioner of police stated that Mr Botha ‘had not been questioned yet’.

However, at the inquest which began on 3 May police gave evidence that he was interrogated on 2 days at the Sanlam Building between 8.30 and 4.30am. Mojar O Snyman, Sergent P Prinsloo and Captain D P Siebert ,who had interrogated Mr Botha ,gave evidence. Asked why Mr Botha would have committed suicide, Major Snyman said he may been scared that the information he had given them would be used against him. A police statement said that Mr Botha ‘never hinted’ that he planned suicide.

Dr GJ Knoebel, a senior government pathologist, gave evidence regarding examinations he made of samples of skin taken from wounds on Mr Botha’s body. Skin abrasions found on the shoulder, upper chest, right upper arm and armpit indicated wounds inflicted probably 2 to 6 hours before death. Skin taken from his knuckle showed two wounds, one of which was at least 3 days old. Dr B Tucker, the pathologists who conducted the post-mortem examination, agreed that these injuries were on the deceased before he plunged to his death. He said that these injuries could have been sustained while the body came into contact with a rigid object, possibly while being struck by it. Dr W Cooper, counsel for the family, described Mr Botha as a healthy man and said only the persons who interrogated Mr Botha could explain how he had received the injuries.

In his findings Mr J Coetzee, the magistrate, said that the police witness had made ‘a good impression’ and that he had accepted their evidence in full. He accepted the police witnesses’ denial that no form of violence whatever had been inflicted on the deceased. He said the court was unable to judge how the injuries had been sustained because no relevant evidence had been presented. The court found that Mr Botha had died of a head injury when he fell, which was not due to an offence committed by any person.


Behind Closed Doors. By Shireen Motala .South African Institute Race Relations.1987.

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