10 August 2017

Statement from the Ahmed Timol Family Trust


Will he break ranks with 46-year-old police version of events?

A former member of apartheid South Africa’s notorious security police who was among the branch’s first black recruits has agreed to give evidence to the re-opened inquest about what he heard and saw during Ahmed Timol’s detention at John Vorster Square days before his death.

The witness made contact with the Timol family last week after watching the cross-examination of his former security police colleagues, Neville Els and Joao Rodrigues, on television. His evidence is expected to contradict that of Rodrigues that Timol showed no sign of having been tortured or assaulted during his four-day interrogation.

Rodrigues’ claim that he alone was in the room with Timol when the detainee dashed across the room to a window and dived outside was key to Magistrate De Villiers’s finding of suicide at the 1972 inquest. De Villiers dismissed any other possible cause of death as “ludicrous”.

But the evidence presented to the re-opened inquest – besides that of Rodrigues, who repeated his 1972 story – has painted a fundamentally different picture. 

The court has heard that security police routinely tortured and assaulted political detainees, that the man arrested with Timol was admitted to hospital in a coma on the day before Timol’s death, that members of Timol’s interrogation team had a history of torturing and assaulting detainees, that Timol was so badly beaten that he wouldn’t have been able to run across the room and dive out the window – and even if he did, it would not have been possible for his body to land where it did.

Mr Justice Billy Mothle, presiding over the re-opened inquest, last week asked that certain specialist witnesses be re-called to try and assist the inquest to establish the time of Timol’s death. The police say he committed suicide in the afternoon, but two witnesses – one of whom saw the body fall – have said it occurred in the morning of 27 October 1971. 

The mystery security policeman and one of the forensic pathologists who earlier testified on the extent of Timol’s pre-fall injuries are on the witness list for today, together with a man who was employed at the garage opposite John Vorster Square on 27 October 1971, who has been subpoenaed to appear. Timol’s nephew Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee is scheduled to testify tomorrow. After these final witnesses have been heard the court will adjourn for a week to allow legal teams to prepare final arguments.

The State agreed to re-open the inquest after new evidence was discovered by the Timol family. Judge Mothle must determine whether anyone was responsible for Timol’s death and, if so, make recommendations on prosecutions.

Timol, a member of the ANC and South African Communist Party, was the 22nd of 73 anti-apartheid activists to die in police detention between 1963 and 1990. The police commonly ascribed the deaths to suicide or accident. No members of the police have ever been charged or prosecuted in respect of any of these incidents.

The re-opened inquest is taking place at the Gauteng Division of the High Court, Pretoria, in Room 2D. Proceedings commence at 10am, and are open to the public.


For more information please call Benny Gool on 082 5566 556 or Roger Friedman on 0798966 899.

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