27 November 2012

Remembering Neil Aggett and other death in detention victims of John Vorster Square

On 27 November 1981, Dr Neil Aggett was taken into custody as part of a massive clamp down by apartheid security police on trade unionists and other activists. Less than three months later, on 5 February 1982, he died at the notorious John Vorster Square after 70 days of detention without trial.

The story of Neil Aggett's death in detention is one of those included in SAHA's new online exhibit on the notorious John Vorster Square that appears on the new Google Cultural Institute website.

SAHA was invited by the Google Cultural Institute earlier this year to become a key partner in the development and piloting of an online curation tool being developed using Google technologies in order to enable organisations around the world to preserve and promote cultural, historic, and artistic content online.

The early phases of this Google initiative aim to showcase a collection of stories of important 20th century events, including the story of apartheid, created in part with SAHA and other heritage organisations in South Africa. This digital collection of memories and artefacts is now accessible for every internet user anywhere in the world to experience.

SAHA selected Between life and death: stories from John Vorster Square as the first online exhibit to create within this platform. This exhibit is an adaptation of an interactive DVD of the same name, commissioned by SAHA and produced by Doxa Productions as part of the SAHA / Sunday Times Heritage Project in 2007. A virtual walk through the police cells on the 10th floor of South Africa's most notorious police station where the security forces reigned in apartheid South Africa, the DVD features interviews with former detainees and security police, as well as photographs, press clippings, drawings and archival footage, revealing the horrors of detention without trial.

The Google Cultural Institute site also features other significant SA events such as the Women's March of 1954, the Treason trial and the Sharpeville Massacre.

Copies of the John Vorster Square DVD, along with a new guide for history educators, are available at our offices for R100 a copy (guide and DVD) - proceeds will go towards reproduction costs as SAHA is a non-profit entity.