Mr Nicodemus Kgoathe was one of eleven Bakwena-ba-Mokgopa tribesmen detained after an attempt was made to burn down the resident of a tribal headman who had been appointed by the chief of the tribe despite the objections of the local community of Hebron. The tribesmen were also accused of attempting to burn down the tribal office and other buildings.Mr Kgoathe was detained on 11th November 1968 under section 6(1) of the Terrorism Act and on 21 January 1969 was taken from the Silverton police cells to HF Verwoerd hospital in Pretoria,where he died on 4th of February.During his stay in hospital,he was treated for lung and kidney infections. A post-mortem gave the cause of death as bronchial pneumonia.
At the inquest proceedings the doctor who arranged for him to be admitted to hospital said that, in his opinion,Mr Kgoathe was at that stage suffering from the after-effects of concussion.Mr Kgoathe had told that he had fallen in a shower room,but on being questioned further said that he had been assaulted. this seemed to be more likely explanation according to the doctor,since the deceased had linear marks on his shoulders and U-shaped wounds and other abrasions on his body.
Another witness, a district surgeon, testified that the injuries Mr Kgoathe suffered were the result of assaults,and that he had examined Mr Kgoathe before his death and found marks on his body which could have been caused by a rawhide whip,and wounds that could have been caused by assault with a belt buckle.A sergent from the Silverton police station testified that Mr Kgoathe had complained of body pains and had said that he been assaulted by the security police during interrogation.Mr Kgoathe refused to lay any charges.Two members of the security police stated that during his interrogation Mr Kgoathe had been allowed to take a shower and had fallen in the shower room.
The Magistrate found that on the evidence before him ,he was not in a position to conclude that any person was to blame for Mr Kgoathe's death.Through her lawyer,Mr Joel Carlon,Mr Kgoathe 's widow sued the prime minister and the minister of police for damages of R9 000.On 11th July 1984 the minister of law and order,in reply to a question on whether Mr Kgoathe's claim had been succssful,said that documents relating to this matter had not been preserved, and consequent the required particulars could not furnished.
Behind Closed Doors. By Shireen Motala .South African Institute Race Relations.1987.