The Murder Of Ahmed Timol

“Twenty-one years [since the TRC] that have led to this Pretoria courtroom, and to the appearance of this giant man who, 46 years ago, claimed to have been the only eyewitness to Uncle Ahmed’s suicide. Joao Rodrigues was the state’s star witness at the 1972 inquest. He would have been deemed pretty perfect for the job of covering the murder of Uncle Ahmed. A white South African of Portuguese descent, he worked as an administrative clerk at security police headquarters in Pretoria. After more than 10 years of service he had ascended just one step up the police hierarchy, to the rank of sergeant – proof, if nothing else, of his loyalty to the cause for his role in covering up the murder of Uncle Ahmed.” Follow Ahmed Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Cajee, on his 20-year journey to find his uncle’s killer and bring him to justice.

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The website lists the names of 73 anti-apartheid activists who died in detention between 1963 and1990. Nobody has ever been held accountable for any of those deaths.

The 22nd name on the list is Ahmed Timol, who died on 27 October 1971, four days after being arrested at a police roadblock.

In Timol’s case, as with the others, inquests were held to rubber-stamp the police version of the death. According to police, Timol committed suicide by jumping out of a 10th floor window at John Vorster Square. Other deaths in detention were ascribed to “accidents” such as slipping in the shower…

Those who knew Ahmed Timol, and knew of the barbarism of apartheid police torturers, strongly believed the police version was a lie.

Approximately 21 years ago, Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee, began researching his uncle’s death. He produced a book, Timol: Quest for Justice, and was the driving force behind the production of a documentary and exhibition of the same theme.

Re-opening the inquest was the long-term goal, a goal that was achieved last month in Johannesburg with the assistance of the South African non–profit Foundation on Human Rights (FHR); Howard Varney,  a senior program adviser with The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICT), law firm Webber Wentzel, the Legal Resource Centre (LRC), and super-sleuth, Frank Dutton, among others.

The re-opening of the Ahmed Timol Inquest commenced on 26 June 2017. The opening remarks of Judge Billy Mothle were profound:

Considering the conspectus of the documents submitted thus far, there is no doubt in my mind that during these proceedings we, as South Africans are about to enter a door that will rekindle painful memories. A door that invites us to embark on a journey which will cause all of us to confront the sordid part of our history. That door will only close, once the truth is revealed.

After listening to testimonies of fellow detainees, pathologists, trajectory specialists and former Security Branch Officers, Judge Billy Mothle made a historical ruling on 12 October 2017.

Ahmed Timol did not meet his death because he committed suicide, but that he “died as a result of having been pushed to fall, an act which was committed by members of the security branch with dolus eventualis as a form of intent, and prima facie amounting to murder”. Els to be investigated for misleading the Court that he only knew of the allegation of assault on detainees from the media. Sons should also be investigated for testifying under oath that he heard of detainees’ assault from the media. Rodrigues should be investigated for making contradictory statements whilst under oath. He has a previous conviction on perjury.

The pain grief of a losing loved ones killed by apartheid police is not only limited to Ahmed Timol. The families of Chief Albert Luthuli, Sulaiman Saloojee Imam Haron, Nicodimus Kgoathe, Solomon Modipane, Jacob Monakgotla, Mapetla Mohapi, Mathews Mabelane, Dr Hoosen Haffejee, Steve Biko, Cradock Four, Dr Neil Aggett, Nokuthula Simelane, Mxolisi Dicky Jacobs, Coline Williams, Robert Waterwitch and many others eagerly in democratic South Africa seek the truth and closure for their loves ones.  Transitional Justice in South Africa remains elusive as the democratically elected government has displayed no interest in finding truth and closure for victims of apartheid-era crimes.

The re-opened inquest into the death of Ahmed Essop Timol on 12 October 2017

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