August 04, 2017

4 August 2017

Statement from the Ahmed Timol Family Trust


Imtiaz Cajee to describe the long road to justice

Ahmed Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee, who has led the family’s struggle for truth and justice, will today be the final witness to give evidence to the re-opened Timol inquest before the matter is adjourned for final argument.

Timol was a communist and anti-apartheid activist doing underground work in South Africa. He was arrested at a police roadblock in October 1971. Four days later he was dead. The police said they did not torture or assault him; he committed suicide. That was the finding of the inquest magistrate, De Villiers, and the official last word on the matter.

For 46 years, Ahmed Timol’s family has believed the security police were lying, and that Timol was tortured, assaulted and murdered. Twenty-one years ago, Timol’s mother, Mrs Hawa Timol, pleaded with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to re-open the case and reveal the truth.

She was not the only one. The families of some of the other 72 political detainees who died in detention between 1963 and 1990 similarly approached the commission for answers. In its final report, the commission recommended follow-up investigations, but no answers have been forthcoming…

When Mrs Timol passed on, her grandson Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee, took responsibility for keeping the flame of justice for Ahmed Timol flickering.

Fourteen years ago, he wrote to then National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka. Cajee informed Ngcuka that none of the policeman involved in the interrogation of Ahmed Timol had applied for amnesty, and appealed for the case to be re-investigated. A few months later, he received a response from the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority to say that investigations had produced negative results.

But Cajee was not about to give up. He took on the investigation, himself, produced a book based on the results, and is in the process of producing a second, updated version.

His evidence today will describe the struggles he has endured to access information and persuade the State to re-open the case.

He will tell the court about his conversations with the late Captain Gloy, a member of his uncle’s interrogation team, who rebuffed repeated requests for a meeting.

And he will give evidence on some of the unanswered questions that remain, such as the machinations of the security police network that monitored Timol, and whether his arrest at the roadblock with banned literature in the boot of his car was a stroke of luck for the police or part of a plan.

The re-opened inquest is an outcome of Cajee’s work. He found an ally in the Foundation on Human Rights, and the renown investigator, Frank Dutton, was brought onto the team.

Over the past two weeks the inquest, with Mr Justice Billy Mothle presiding, has heard evidence from a range of expert witnesses, former detainees and security policemen.

On the police version of events, rubber-stamped by the original inquest, Timol dived through the 10th floor window of an interrogation room. He had been well treated, and was in perfect physical condition. They produced literature purporting to support their contention that communists were encouraged to commit suicide rather than reveal information under interrogation.

But forensic pathologists who studied the post mortem report and photographs of Timol’s body have told the re-opened inquest that he incurred severe injuries prior to falling from the police’s John Vorster Square Building.

A trajectory expert testified that Timol could not have dived from the window in the orientation he was seen falling and landed on the ground where he did. He may have been thrown off the roof.

Former political detainees arrested with and at more-or-less the same time as Timol have given evidence of their own brutal assault by police.

And, yesterday, former Cabinet Minister Ronnie Kasrils, who was a leader of the South African Communist Party and a member of the group of exiled activists in London to whom Timol was linked, became the second witness to inform the court that the documents on which police relied to back-up their assertion that arrested communists were under instructions to commit suicide were forgeries.

The police sergeant who claimed to have been alone in the room with Timol when Timol dived through the window, Joao “Jan” Rodrigues, was grilled for two-and-a-half days earlier this week. He stuck to his story, saying he saw no evidence that Timol had been assaulted.

Cajee will be the last witness to give evidence. Thereafter the court will adjourn for several days for the preparation of arguments.

Judge Mothle must decide whether anybody can be held responsible for Timol’s death, and can make recommendations on prosecutions.

The Timol family is assisted by the South African non–profit, Foundation on Human Rights (FHR); Advocate Howard Varney, a senior program adviser with The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICT), law firm Webber Wentzel, the Legal Resource Centre (LRC), and investigator Frank Dutton, among others.


For more information please call Benny Gool on 082 5566 556 or Roger Friedman on 079 896 6 899.


Distributed by Oryx Media.



  1. Rena Kessa says:

    I am aware of the painstaking work that Imtiaz Cajee has done. A few years ago I was made aware of the book he wrote “A quest for justice” After reading the story , it was no different from What we heard from our elders. Good luck Imtiaz Cajee may the seeds if your work bear the beautiful flowers that we all await…..Aluta Continua✊🚩

  2. Dear Imtiaz!
    It should have been challenging for you to sit in court and listen to the submissions of various witnesses regarding your beloved uncle. Equally important i hope was when you have to prepare for your own testimony as a family member and the last witness before arguments as the inquest moves to a close. I want to salute you once more for the excellent work that you have put into this project of truth seeking. At last i hope that the truth shall come. May you be strong as the journey you started many years ago seems to be drawing to a close. You are a pillar upon which many families that lost their own loved ones can draw inspiration. I hope justice shall be served in this matter.

  3. Aslam Khota says:

    Imtiaz, I remember where the journey began. In 1997/98 you started the quest for justice with a huge unbridled manuscript that only a professional could put into a timeline. The road in between had many, many bumps and diversions, but you kept on pushing and finally published the book 7 years later. Now 12 years on that thirst and quest will be quenched with the truth. Whatever the outcome, the story of uncle Ahmed and his parents and family and colleagues is now told. It has brought to the surface again a long hidden ugly truth of apartheid machinations and harks back to the brutality of that horrible period in the life of millions.

  4. Ahmed Saley says:

    From six thousand miles away I salute you Imtiaz and the ‘team’ that has assisted you in your quest. You have been like a dog with a bone, the epitome of doggedness, perseverance and persistence, all interspersed with a great deal of patience. Under challenging circumstances, you have kept the flame burning not just for the Timol family but all those other families that are still awaiting truth, justice and closure. It has been a long rollercoaster of a ride for you and the Timol family, but in the last few weeks there has been a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Your quest for justice has now transformed into a quest for truth and now hopefully a quest for resolution too. It really beggars belief that a country so ravaged by the atrocities of the past has not hitherto resolved these issues. The TRC twenty-one years ago had the ideal opportunity to do deal with these issues and to have saved many the pain and torment of it all. I can still remember the pleading of Ahmed’s mother for some sort of truth and closure as to what had happened to her son. Many more of those involved in the death were then still alive and even Rodriques’s memory might have been a bit more unblemished. I am presuming Gloy and van Niekerk were still alive then. If the TRC had been more proactive others who had lost loved ones would also not have had to wait this long. We are in the midst worldwide of a particularly frightening resurgence of race hatred. It is hatred absolutely unequivocally being incited and encouraged against the oppressed. It is there everyday, implicit or explicit, but the gloves have in this case come off and have to also in all corners of the globe. So Brother Imtiaz, keep speaking up for the tyrannised of the world and all the oppressed of the world and of South Africa in particular which still seems to be in such a terrible and tragic state. The truth, yes the truth – is the most important legacy that we can pass on to future generations. Maybe we could all learn from this experience and all of us, in whatever little way, let the world out there know that one person can help change it in some way. I have the clarity of objectivity but it beggars belief that it has taken this long for some sort of path to closure and resolution. And after all this is over may, God-willing, your grandmother rest easier in her grave.

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