Profile of Roodepoort Activists



Roodepoort is known to have produced various activists from the Indian community who took up the call to fight the racist apartheid regime.

Below is a profile of these activists

Ahmed Timol:

Ahmed Timol was a schoolteacher at the Roodepoort Indian High School (RIHS) from 1963 – 1966 and from February 1970 until his death in October 1971. Timol was known to be a good, caring and very helpful teacher. While softly spoken and reserved, he never hesitated to speak his mind and his activism was not limited to the expression of opinions. He collected food parcels for political detainees and encouraged his students to volunteer to bake foodstuffs. In teaching history lessons, Timol constantly reminded his students of the hardships of the apartheid system. The lessons on Napoleon and the Allied effort in World War II against Nazism were used by Timol as a backdrop to the struggles of the South African people.

Timol was actively involved in promoting non-racial sport. He was involved in organising a soccer festival, the largest amateur soccer tournament ever hosted in South Africa. He loved playing cricket and was a middle order batsman, considered dependable when his team’s chips were down.

Timol went abroad and linked up with friends and comrades Essop & Aziz Pahad in London in 1966.  He was recruited into SACP and went to Moscow with Thabo Mbeki for political training in 1969. He studied at Libumba Institute for 9 months and then returned to London where he received additional training in underground work.

Upon his return from London in February 1970, Timol was setting up underground cells for the banned Communist Party.

Police claimed that Timol was arrested at a routine roadblock on the 22nd of October 1971 when they found banned political literature in the boot of the car he was driving.  He was taken to the notorious John Vorster Square Police Station for interrogation. 5 days later, police claimed that he had jumped to his death from the 10th floor and committed suicide.

Timol’s funeral on the 27th of October 1971 brought Roodepoort to a standstill as several thousand mourners attended his funeral. The inquest findings were that Timol had committed suicide and that nobody was responsible for his death.  This was despite gruesome marks and bruises that were found on his body.

Former President Nelson Mandela renamed the Azaadville Secondary School the Ahmed Timol Secondary School on 29 March 1999 as was requested by Timol’s mother at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Hearings in April 1996.

Timol was awarded the Luthuli award Silver for bravery in December 2009 by President Jacob Zuma.

Mohammad Timol:

Younger brother of Ahmed Timol, Mohammad was arrested in 1966 with other students at the Roodepoort Indian High School (RIHS) for writing political slogans on the school walls. Mohammad received a suspended sentence for this.

After the arrest of his brother, Mohammad was detained under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act of 1967 on 25th October 1971.  He was held in detention for 141 days and most of it in solitary confinement.  On his release Mohammad continued his activities in opposition to the apartheid state and in 1973 with ANC comrades and set up a Johannesburg based Human Rights Committee, The main aim of espousing the  ANC policies and calling for the release of political prisoners, detainees and unbanning of the ANC.

Mohammad was detained once again at the height of the Soweto uprisings in August 1976 for four months. On his release placed under house arrest.  Continuous security police harassment forced Mohammad into exile on the 01 January 1978 and joined the ANC in exile. Received MK training in Angola as well as specialist  training in the former German Democratic Republic. Throughout period of exile was deployed by the ANC in the Frontline States. Returned from exile December 1991.

Ahmed Bhabha: (now living in Canada)

Ahmed was part of a group that was responsible for the formation of an awareness group known as the Roodepoort Youth Study Group in the early  1960s.  This Study Group was responsible for the recruitment of Indian students in the area. Ahmed was detained and held in solitary confinement in 1964. He left the country around 1965/1966.

Yusuf “ Jo Jo” Saloojee: (now South African Ambassador in Oman)

Jo Jo was a teacher at the Roodepoort Indian High School (RIHS) in the early 1960s and a neighbour and close friend of Ahmed Timol. He was part of a group that was responsible for the distribution of banned pamphlets and literature at the RIHS. Jo Jo was a Sports Administrator and with Timol involved in the administration of the Dynamos Football Club. He left the country in 1996 for Zambia. He was instrumental opening an ANC representation in Canada.

Kantilal “KC” Naik:

Naik was a Science teacher at the Roodepoort Indian High School (RIHS) and a potential recruit for Ahmed Timol when he was setting up his underground cell.  He was detained at the John Vorster Square Police Station on 23 October 1971 and released on 07 March 1972.  Naik was severely tortured during his detention.

Salim Essop:

Salim was a former student of Ahmed Timol at the Roodepoort Indian High School (RIHS). Studying to become a medical doctor, Salim was part of Timol’s underground cell. He was accompanying Timol when they were arrested at a routine police roadblock. Salim was detained at the John Vorster Square Police Station where he was severely assaulted. He was taken to the HF Verwoerd Hospital in Pretoria to receive treatment and was under constant police guard.  Salim was sentenced on 1 November 1972 to five years’ imprisonment, following his conviction on a charge under the Terrorism Act.  He served his sentence on Robben Island.

Amina Desai:

Amina’s husband, SM Desai, was a member of the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) then engaged in a passive resistance campaign against the apartheid government.  She had studied at Harvard College, in Johannesburg, which at the time was “whites only”. Amina became the only non-white student, attaining qualifications in typing, commerce and shorthand.

SM Desai was also owner of an agency for Watson’s shoes, a large local brand; when he died in 1969, Amina immediately assumed control of her husband’s business, undeterred by being a woman in a male-dominated profession, and ran it successfully for the next 35 years.

Ahmed Timol spent a lot of Time at Amina’s place in Roodepoort. Their families were related and Amina’s children were all abroad when Timol was busy setting up underground cells for the banned Communist Party at the time.  When Timol was arrested, Amina was also detained at the John Vorster Square Police Station for over 5 months before appearing in court.  Amina was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. She served most of her sentence alongside the longtime ANC stalwart Dorothy Nyembe, and for a short while with Winnie Mandela, whose defiance and courage she greatly admired. She was released in 1978; by then she was South Africa’s longest-serving Indian woman political prisoner, and was placed under a banning order and house arrest for a further five years.

Amina was devastated to leave South Africa in 2004, as failing health brought her to live with her children in the UK and Ireland where she passed away in June 2009.