This Day in History: 11 January, 1999
On Monday, 11 January 1999, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission denied Gideon Nieuwoudt amnesty for his role in the death of Steve Biko in September 1977.
Nieuwoudt was a notorious former police officer during apartheid-era South Africa. Biko was an anti-apartheid activist during the 1960s and 1970s in South Africa, and founder of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), which marshalled a large proportion of the black urban population.
Biko was arrested on August 18, 1977, at a police roadblock, under the Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967. He was interrogated by Port Elizabeth police. Nieuwoudt was one of the interrogators. The activist's interrogation included severe beating and torture, which eventually put him in a coma. He was then driven more than 1 000 kilometres to a prison in Pretoria, which had hospital facilities.
He died shortly after arriving at the prison on September 12, as a result of a brain hemorrhage from massive head injuries.
Nieuwoudt applied for amnesty after the installation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. However, chairperson of the Amnesty Committee, Ronnie Pillay, ruled that he had not shown political motivation for his actions, which was a requirement for gaining amnesty.
Nieuwoudt was one of five police officers who applied for amnesty regarding Steve Biko's death.
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