Statement from the Ahmed Timol Family Trust


Timol’s nephew Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee the final witness

The re-opened inquest into the death in police custody of Ahmed Timol is expected to conclude cross-examining witnesses today before adjourning for the preparation of final arguments.

The court wants to re-examine former security policeman Sergeant Joao “Jan” Rodrigues after two witnesses last week testified that Timol did not fall from John Vorster Square Police Station in the afternoon as Rodrigues said.

Rodrigues will be followed to the witness box by Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee, who, for the past 20 years, has led the family’s quest for the truth.

The court stood down last week to enable the state to interview potential new security police witnesses who made contact with the court after viewing the inquest on television, but it is understood that they will not be required to testify.

Ahmed Timol died four days after being arrested in October 1971. He was the 22nd of 73 anti-apartheid activists to die in police detention between 1963 and 1990.

Rodrigues was the “star” police witness at the original inquest held in 1972 which concluded that Timol had not been tortured or assaulted but committed suicide by diving from a 10th floor window.

Apartheid magistrate JJL De Villiers termed suggestions that Timol may have been murdered “ludicrous”. Rodrigues received a special commendation from the national police commissioner a few days before De Villiers pronounced his judgement.

But witnesses to the re-opened inquest have told a completely different story.

  • Political detainees were routinely tortured and assaulted;
  • The man arrested with Timol was assaulted to within an inch of his life;
  • Timol’s security police interrogators had personal histories of allegedly assaulting detainees;
  • Forensic pathologists said Timol was so brutally assaulted prior to falling from the building that he may have unconscious, and would certainly not have been able to run and dive;
  • A trajectory expert said it would not have been possible for Timol to land where he did had he dived from the window – it was more likely he was rolled off the roof;
  • Leaders of the South African Communist Party dismissed the police contention that communists were encouraged to commit suicide to avoid revealing evidence as a fraud; and
  • Three witnesses in the vicinity of John Vorster Square on 27 October 1971 swore that Timol fell in the morning, and not in the afternoon as police alleged.

Before discharging Rodrigues after nearly three days of cross-examination two weeks ago, Judge Billy Mothle told the former security policeman that his evidence did not accord with that of expert witnesses, and warned that he could recommend his prosecution.

Judge Mothle has asked that Cajee, who was instrumental in persuading the state to re-open the inquest, be given the honour of testifying last.

Cajee will describe the struggles he endured to access information, both from former security policemen and the democratic state.

He is expected to 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 State agreed to re-open the Timol Inquest after investigation by the family revealed new evidence. 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 super-sleuth, Frank Dutton, among others.


For more information please call Benny Gool on 082 5566 556 or Roger Friedman on 079 896 6899.

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