Judge appointed and dates set for landmark Ahmed Timol case

The Judge President of the South Gauteng High Court has appointed Judge Billy Mothle to oversee the re-opening of the inquest into the death of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol. There are three dates for the hearing. The inquest commences on the 26th June 2017 until 30 June 2017 in the South Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg. The case resumes on the 24th of July until the 4th of August with the final dates on the 10th and 11th of August.

“Our immediate priority is to have the apartheid era inquest finding of nobody to blame reversed” says Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee nephew of Ahmed Timol. Various high profile people are expected to attend the re-opening of the inquest and various media organizations have applied for permission to film proceedings. A private investigation on behalf of the Timol family presented evidence to the NPA in January 2016. They argued that Apartheid era Magistrate de Villiers had erred in his findings and provided compelling evidence to the NPA necessitating the reopening of the inquest in the interest of justice. Magistrate de Villiers concluded during the original Timol inquest in 1972 that he was not tortured during his detention, the Security Branch Officers were credible witnesses and that the detainee had committed suicide. He found nobody responsible for his death. A private investigation on behalf of the Timol family presented evidence to the NPA in January 2016.

Members of the family, close friends and comrades of Timol, the 29 year old Roodepoort school teacher, never believed that he had committed suicide by jumping from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square Police Station (renamed Johannesburg Central Police Station) during his interrogation by security police.  They believed that Timol was either tortured to death and thrown from the building or pushed to his death. They remained convinced that the inquest was a cover-up.

Timol was the 22nd person to die in police custody during apartheid and many more were to follow. Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee, responded with emotion and deep gratitude to the dates for the re-opening of the inquest stating that this was long overdue and years of perseverance had finally paid off. His grandmother, Hawa Timol (Ahmed Timol’s mother) appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1996 to plea for answers to her son’s death. They were not forthcoming as none of the perpetrators were subpoenaed to testify and provide their version of events leading to Timol’s death. Cajee remains buoyant and states that he will provide pertinent details surrounding the arrest, detention and death of his uncle in the second edition of his book, Timol: The Elusive Truth that he intends to publish.

“Our immediate priority is to have the finding of “nobody to blame” reversed. My grandmother was humiliated by Magistrate de Villiers and branded a liar when she testified how a security branch officer told her that she had not given her son a hiding when growing up and that they were going to do this for her. My grandmother has since passed away, but she will be smiling at the news of the reopening of the inquest” Cajee said.

However, the pain and anguish of other family member’s remains embedded with Cajee. “We wait for the findings to be reversed and the honour and dignity of comrade Timol restored. Yet, the family of MK cadre Nokuthula Simelane continue their search for her remains for over 34 years.” Simelane was kidnapped by members of the apartheid-era Soweto security branch who now want the Ministry of Police to cover their legal costs. Dr Neil Aggett, an organiser of the Food and Canning Workers Union died in the notorious John Vorster Square on February 5, 1982, after being detained for 70 days tortured by the SAP Security Branch which operated under of the apartheid system. Aggett was the 51st person to have died in apartheid police detention. The Simelane and Aggett cases are with the NPA and Cajee is adamant that these cases must be speedily concluded. The perpetrators of both cases are alive and justice must be swift and not be delayed. Other detainees who died in police detention at John Vorster Square Police Station include Wellington Tshazibane, Elmon Malele, Matthews Mabalena, Ernest Dipale, Clayton Sizwe Sithole and Stanza Bopape.

The Timol family has been supported by the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) and legal assistance provided pro-bono by Webber Wentzel, attorneys in their quest to reverse the inquest findings. “This would not happen without their assistance. Surely, the government of the day cannot abdicate their responsibilities in finding closure for their fallen comrades,” adds Cajee.

* Ahmed Timol was a school teacher at the Roodepoort Indian High School. He left South Africa in December 1966 to perform the Hajj in Saudi Arabia, and moved on to London where he linked up with his exiled friends, Essop and Aziz Pahad. A decision was made by the Central Committee of the Communist Part that Timol would undergo his political training at the Lenin School in the Soviet Union in 1969, accompanied by Thabo Mbeki and Anne Nicholson. Timol returned to South Africa in 1970, and proceeded to build underground structures for the banned ANC and SACP. He was successful in distributing propaganda material by mailing lists throughout the country for a period of 18 months. On the evening of 22 October 1971, Timol accompanied by medical student, Saleem Essop, were stopped at a police roadblock in Coronationville. Timol and Essop were taken to the Newlands Police Station where they were separated and later taken to the John Vorster Square Police Station. Four days and 19 hours later, police alleged that Timol jumped to his death. By then, Essop was in hospital after being tortured to an inch of his life.

The Ditsong Museum in Pretoria will be hosting the Ahmed Timol Exhibition from the 5th of July 2017. Details will be provided.


This statement was released for the Ahmed Timol Family Trust and the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR)

For further media enquiries, please contact Benny Gool at 082 556 6556 email: benny@oryxmedia.co.za