From 1960- early 1980's, Detention-Without-Trial was used extensively by the State as a first line of defense for security forces; when this started to fail the killing of political opponents escalated dramatically. Early in the 1960's, special squads of the SA security police received training in torture in France and Algeria, after which torture became a widespread systematic tool used to get information and to terrorize detainees and activists. 


46.5" x 40.5  Mixed Media                                 (1999)


Methods included a wide range of both physical and psychological torture. Beating, electric shock, suffocation with a wet bag, sexual torture and forced postures were most common. For example, detainees were made to stand on a sheet of writing paper for hours or days at a time; or to sit on an imaginary chair; or to hold an object above his/her head for days on end.


Torture shows a method described in testimony to the TRC by Jeffrey Benzien, former member of the Security Branch, as part of his amnesty application [AM 5314/97].


"It would be a cloth bag that would be submerged in water to get it completely wet...I get the person to lie down on the ground on his stomach...with that person's hands handcuffed behind his back. Then I would take up a position in the small of his back, put my feet through between his arms to maintain my balance and then pull the bag over the person's head and twist it closed around the neck in that way, cutting off the air supply to the person... On occasions people have, I presume ... lost consciousness. They would go slack and every time that was done, I would release the bag."


The names shown on Torture are those of both victims of torture as well as the perpetrators based upon their amnesty applications to the TRC. Where available the victim's TRC case number is included and the date or month of death. The perpetrator's TRC amnesty application number is included where relevant and perpetrators are shown with a red edge.


As part of his amnesty application [AM 4059/96] to the TRC, Sergeant Frank Bennetts describes another torture method referred to as 'Helicopter' 'Boeing' or 'Aeroplane'. Bennetts was a former member of the Durban Riot Unit.


"They would handcuff his feet together round the ankles and handcuff his hands behind his back and then place him on his stomach with his feet in the air and put a broom stick ... between his ankles and then through his legs coming out the top here and pick him up and hang him between two desks like that. The result was similar to crucifixion. It pulled all your muscles. It closed up your chest. You couldn't breathe. Leave the guy there long enough, he's going to talk".