Memorial to Deaths in Detention
|Kagiso Pat Mautloa (left), who designed the Sunday Times Heritage Project memorial to eight political detainees who died at John Vorster Square, with Vusi Mchunu, who was detained there in July 1977.
|Picture: Simon Mathebula © Sunday Times
A public memorial paying homage to eight detainees who died at the former John Vorster Square Police Station was installed at the site on Friday by the Sunday Times Heritage Project.
The notorious police station, now known as Johannesburg Central, was the centre of terror, torture and violence against opponents of the apartheid regime.
Ahmed Timol was the first detainee to die at the station, on October 27, 1971, after he purportedly jumped from the 10th-floor window of Room 1026.
The last detainee to lose his life there was Clayton Sithole in January 1990 - 12 days before the release of Nelson Mandela. Sithole, who was found hanging from a water pipe in the shower, was Zinzi Mandela's partner and father of her then eight-month-old son, Bambatha.
Sunday Times Heritage Project director Charlotte Bauer said the John Vorster Square memorial was a "sensitive story" about death in detention and it had taken almost two years to come to fruition after lengthy deliberations.
"It is a result of countless negotiations and debates with police and representatives of the City of Johannesburg. It took the rejection of the first, very powerful, artwork for all to agree to a memorial that does not shock or offend people," she said.
The rejected artwork was a sculpture of a figure falling from the building.
The memorial's unveiling on Friday will be followed by the launch of an interactive DVD about John Vorster Square during Heritage Month in September.
South African History Archive director Piers Pigou said DVD users would be able to tour the building in the company of a former security policeman and hear his chilling account.