Safa’s Bennett Bailey recalls encounters with apartheid torturer Johannes ‘Spyker’ van Wyk

In an interview, Bennett Bailey, the son of working-class parents who raised him in the Cape Flats township of Heideveld and who classifies himself as a pensioner after his recent retirement from the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, recalled his arrest in a country known as apartheid South Africa.
More than 40 years ago, as merciless state-sanctioned hunters were intimidating, detaining and torturing young activists in a desperate bid to stop a boycott that had brought many high schools in the Cape Peninsula to a standstill, there was one name people came to know and fear.
That was Johannes “Spyker” van Wyk, a name that activists – seniors and the very young, men and women – associated with a prime abuser of human rights and the murder of Imam Abdullah Haron, the Muslim cleric who died in detention in 1969. Van Wyk’s name came up in the Western Cape High Court last week during the inquest into the death of the imam in solitary confinement.
Mention of the security policeman probably brought back bitter, painful memories of cruelty inflicted, like an animal branded, on activists who confronted the apartheid state. Bennett Bailey, head of the South African Football Association (Safa) in Western Cape and recently elected a vice-president of football’s national controlling body, is one.
In an interview, Bailey, the son of working-class parents who raised him in the Cape Flats township of Heideveld and who classifies himself as a pensioner after his recent retirement from the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, recalled his arrest in a country known as apartheid South Africa.
At that time, he was chairperson of the students’ representative council (SRC) at Arcadia High, a school in the township of Bonteheuwel, which was known for radically opposing apartheid and for learners and teachers being in class every year on 31 May – the old South Africa’s Republic Day.
“I was on the run in 1980. I first met ‘Spyker’ van Wyk when he came to arrest me at my sister’s house in Mitchells Plain. I was held incommunicado. That was my first spell in detention. I was not beaten but tortured psychologically,” said Bailey.
As tears slowly wet his cheeks, he said, “I was a child. One had to be mentally strong to survive solitary confinement because the only people one saw were the interrogators.”
For him, inner strength in detention came from singing freedom songs and recalling ...